Another eye-opening article from Janet Lansbury – Elevating Childcare™. I was just learning all these things when I read it first and it made a lot of sense. I know we all feel tempted to distract a child when he is upset, but do we really have to? What are we trying to reach by keeping the child from experiencing his own feelings fully and learning from them? Think about it.
“I may be overly sensitive, but it even bothers me when I see an adult smiling at a crying, upset or sad child. Why do we want to manipulate young children’s moods and feelings?” -Magda Gerber
“A young child’s outbursts may appear to be unreasonable or an overreaction. Still, I’ve learned that we must do all we can to remain patient and let these waves of emotion pass. Feelings are just feelings, and they don’t always make sense. If we make the effort to acknowledge all the hard feelings and also to understand them, we help our child to understand them, too. The child feels unequivocally loved and supported in the process. “You really wanted the blue cup, and I only have the white one. I see how disappointed you are.”
I’ve never met a parent who doesn’t have the instinct to please his or her children. Most of us want to do whatever it takes to make our kids happy. This is a great instinct, except when it leads us to faking our own happiness, stifling or indulging a child to avoid hearing her cries and objections, or neglecting opportunities to provide the behavior boundaries a child desperately needs. When our priority is to ‘keep ‘em smiling’ at all costs, we don’t help ourselves or our children in the long term.
I remember everyone, even random strangers, chanting “smile!” at me when I was young. It was well-intentioned, but it was annoying having to perform to please everyone when I didn’t happen to feel like smiling. The worst was “Smile! You’re so much prettier that way!” Must I appear to be happy all the time…and pretty, too? Can’t you like me as I am? What’s so great about a smile, anyway, if it doesn’t come from within?”