When you become a parent, your number one concern is for your child’s well-being. You want to do everything you can to not only equip them with the skills they need to be awesome adults one day, but to ensure their childhood is a good one. While you’re no doubt doing the best you can to bring up well-adjusted kids, there will be times that they’re angry or sad, and that’s hard to deal with (and even harder to fix). However, if you want to raise happy kids, you may be surprised to know that the best way is also one of the hardest, according to experts.
Child psychologist Tovah Klein, who authored the book “How Toddlers Thrive,” says that if you want to raise happy kids, you have to allow them to be unhappy. Of course, that’s counterintuitive since as parents, our first instinct is to do whatever we can to relieve our children’s suffering. However, jumping to solve their problems will ultimately backfire.
“We all think the way to raise our children to be happy is to make them happy. But in truth, children know how to be happy, to find joy. It is not an all-the-time feeling,” Klein tells CNBC. She warns parents against refusing to accept the truth that “children are allowed to be angry, sad, unhappy in some way.”
Chances are, even your own parents sprung into action the minute you were unhappy. From offering to take you out for ice cream or buying you a new toy to put a smile on your face, they likely thought they were doing the right thing, as do you when you behave this way with your own kids. However, this robs children of the ability to work through their own feelings and learn how to self-soothe. It also makes it more likely that they’ll have bigger meltdowns in the future when you (or anyone else) fails to solve all their problems.
Of course, that doesn’t mean you should simply ignore your child(ren) altogether when they’re upset. If you want to raise happy kids, you could step in to encourage them to breathe deeply or to express their feelings to you in words. That doesn’t mean giving into their temper tantrums, but it does encourage healthy emotional habits.
“Strength comes from being able to have these pretty intense emotions, like anger, [then] handling it and knowing that ’Mommy or Daddy is still there for me, they’re not upset with me, they’re not going to cast me aside,’” Klein explains.
She adds that one of the most important things you can do as a parent is to remind yourself that their moods will shift and they will get over whatever’s getting them down. Of course you’re happy when they are, so remember that even if they’re not happy right now, they’ll get there again. You just have to be patient while they do.