Is it a trap to try and make your child happy?
This might seem like quite a surprising question because of course you want your children to be happy.
But is it a trap to try and make them happy?
I was reminded of this question last week when a mum I’m working with wanted to go for a wedding dinner with her husband. She was worried about her five-year-old son being left with his grandmother. This mum knew that there’d probably be tears at bedtime. And so she felt in a bit of a quandary…
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Should this mum go to the wedding dinner and enjoy herself with her husband as she really wanted to? Or should she stay at home with her son to prevent the crying and the upset?
This is one example of the dynamic of trying to make your children happy. Other examples, not exhaustive, are as follows:
- You feel like you’re walking on eggshells around your child. Perhaps you feel that your child might have a big outburst at any time, so you feel like you can’t really relax in your own home.
- It seems that your child is never satisfied. They’re always complaining – maybe about a sibling – and it seems as if things can never be right. However much attention you give them, there always seems to be a need for more.
- There is a part of you, a voice inside, telling you that because your child gets upset when you’re doing something like getting them dressed for nursery, you’re failing. (And the important thing to recognise here is that that is a part of you with an opinion, and that it’s not speaking the truth.)
If any of these things ring true for you, then this article is going to be relevant.
My aim as a parenting guide is to help you create a deep soul bond with your child so that you can have the happy family you’ve always wanted. And there’s a bit of a paradox here, isn’t there, around the aim of having happy children:
It’s my belief that in order to have your happy family, it’s actually important to let go of trying to make your child happy all the time.
Let me share four reasons why I believe this to be true.
#1 – It’s impossible!
None of us are happy all the time. I’m not happy all the time. And you’re probably not happy all the time. Most people aren’t happy all the time. And so you’re setting yourself up to fail.
#2 – You become the child in the relationship
When you’re walking on eggshells around your child or perhaps trying to convince them to have a more positive view, or see things in a kinder light, an unhelpful kind of dynamic can arise between you and your child.
You almost become like the child in the relationship, in the sense that you’re needing your child to be a certain way in order for you to feel okay.
Does that make sense?
#3 – It puts enormous pressure on your child
It’s not helpful to give your child the message that they shouldn’t be having difficult feelings, because that can be a huge pressure on your child.
As I said, no one can be happy all the time. And if you give your child the sense that they should be being happy instead of being angry, sad, or tearful for example, it can be experienced as a pressure. It can also compound the difficult feelings, because there’s the difficult feeling and then there’s an additional sense that this shouldn’t be happening – that the difficult feeling shouldn’t be there.
I feel that it’s much more helpful to give your child the sense that difficult feelings are part of life, because that’s the truth of it, isn’t it? The more useful lesson for children to learn is that we can get comfortable with the uncomfortable and accompany ourselves through difficult feelings, rather than try and make them go away.
#4 – Children are happier!
I see this again and again. When parents stop trying to make their children happy all the time, their children start being a lot happier!
Paradoxical again, but it is so.
And here’s a little challenge for you…
The next time your child complains or is angry, upset, or complaining about something, here’s what you can do instead. Just allow the feeling to be there. You can empathise with it – really be with your child in the feeling that they’re having – while allowing that feeling to be there and not trying to make it go away.
See what happens. See how that changes things.
See how your child responds in a different way and how you feel when you try out a different behaviour or response.
See what it brings up.
If this has touched something in you and you have a question about your own child’s difficult feelings – about your responses or what might be appropriate – do reach out to me.
I respond to every message.
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