“I just want my kids to be happy”
Seeking for your child to feel secure over being happy will help them more in the long run.
I often hear parents say that they just want their kids to be happy. Who can blame them? I think that’s what every parent really wants for his or her kids. However, if we as parents aim for our kids’ immediate happiness, we will often miss the mark on their overall happiness.
Have you ever seen a parent give in to a child’s demands to try to make the child happy? Have you ever noticed that that doesn’t work in the long run? That when parents give in to the demands of their children, or over indulge their kids, that those kids are usually the unhappiest kids around? Why is that? True and lasting happiness does not come from things that can be bought. Enduring happiness and even confidence comes more from an assurance that we are unconditionally loved and accepted and that we are capable.
A parent cannot spoil a child with love; only with stuff.
So how do we help our kids feel secure and develop lasting happiness? Here are 5 suggestions to help our kids feel secure and ultimately happy:
Be less critical
It is a good thing to recognize when kids do things wrong. If we didn’t recognize our kids’ misbehaviors and correct them, then they may otherwise keep misbehaving. With that being said, the way we help our kids recognize their misbehaviors can be helpful or hurtful. If we have a scowl on our face and show anger and frustration, then we send the message to our kids that they are bad rather than they made a mistake. When we correct them, we should do it in private and show forth love and appreciation for them before and afterwards.
Enjoy and delight in our kids
When we spend time with our kids and show sincere enjoyment while we are engaging with them, we send them the message that they matter and that our lives are happier because they exist. When kids feel delighted in and when they see us sincerely enjoying them they develop self-confidence.
Help them with their emotions
Some emotions such as sadness, hurt, anger, frustration, etc. are uncomfortable for some parents so they try to make their kids happy instead. By trying to switch our child’s emotions from what they are feeling to a more positive emotion sends them the message that we are uncomfortable with what they feel and it may lead them to hide their feelings from us. Kids need us to slow down and connect with them and help them understand how they are feeling and why they are feeling that way. By so doing, we help them feel that their emotions are welcome and valid and that as they share their emotions with supportive people in their lives, they can work through their emotions easier and feel better quicker.
Allow them to make mistakes and resolve those mistakes.
Mistakes are opportunities to learn and grow. Sometimes we don’t think that way when it comes to our kids. Sometimes we try to keep them from making mistakes and thus we rob them of the opportunity to learn from resolving those mistakes. Showing empathy and understanding and then handing the mistakes back to our kids to resolve shows confidence in them and helps them develop life skills (of course we don’t encourage dangerous behaviors just so our kids can learn from those mistakes).
Lastly, if we want our kids to know that they are always unconditionally loved and accepted by us, we need to be sincere in our communication. Sarcasm is the opposite of sincerity and it creates insecurity in relationships. Replacing sarcasm with sincerity will better help kids know where they stand in the relationship and can help them know that they are accepted.
So rather than feeling uncomfortable with your child’s emotions, try to listen to the emotions and allow their emotions to guide you to creating a secure relationship with them. Then, as your children are secure, they can feel a healthy wide range of emotions that are part of the human experience.
Shiloh Lundahl, LCSW, is a child and family therapist in Gilbert and Mesa, Arizona. He is the founder of Parent Arizona and Counseling Services and is part of the Arizona Family Therapy Group.
He provides parenting classes using the Love and Logic curriculum, classes for parents of children with ADHD, step-parenting classes, and advanced trainings for foster and adoptive parents. He also provides in-home therapy in Gilbert, Mesa, Queen Creek, San Tan Valley, Chandler, and Tempe, Arizona.