Children, like all of us, need to be heard and understood.
Next time you hear yourself telling your child how s/he should be feeling or what s/he should be thinking or doing, stop and listen to what your child has to say.
When you go through life and come across something challenging or emotionally provoking, do you find it helpful when those around you try to tell you how to get through it? Say you just had a child, and people come up to you while you’re out for a walk with your baby and start telling you to breastfeed/not to breastfeed, to swaddle them/not to swaddle them, to feed on demand/to feed on a schedule. How do you react?
Each person will experience their lives in a different way. The way that I decide to solve a problem, or grieve loss, will be different from the way my neighbour, mother, aunt, coworker deal with that same situation. There is no one right way to deal with a situation, whether positive or negative.
What there is in each situation is the opportunity to learn more about yourself. Take any situation, a promotion or a layoff, child birth or miscarriage, good meal or gross meal, and there is something that you can learn in how to deal with similar situations in the future.
So telling a child that they ‘shouldn’t be upset’ because they fell and hurt their feelings/bum/knees will not help them learn how to deal with the next fall they experience. Saying that your son/daughter ‘should be happy’ that daycare is over because they get to come home will not make it easier for them to cope with that separation.
Telling people how to think repeatedly, especially as they are just developing problem-solving skills and analytical thinking, will be more of a detriment to them, because they will not learn that they can have faith in their own emotions. They will depend on others to tell them how to feel about every little thing.
Instead of telling other how to feel, or how you would feel in that situation, start asking them how they feel. Listen to what they say, and try to see things from their perspective. Forcing your thoughts and opinions onto them when they're going through a time of change, be it positive or negative, is a surefire way to alienate them when what they need is someone close.
When you go through a hard time, or a big change, or just a disappointment, you don't want to hear from others who will tell you how you should be feeling. You will likely want someone to listen to you and to hear what you're saying. To provide beneficial input that incorporates what you feel as well as how they would deal with it in your situation. But your feelings and emotions and fears need to be validated.
Each and every one of us as humans have an inate need and want to be heard and understood. To be able to talk and have others actually listen to what we have to say. Children are no exception, and neither is the cranky woman next door (or grumpy uncle, or crabby cashier). They all want to have their worries, thoughts, emotions, and happinesses heard and understood.
What you send out will come back to you, so when you're waiting in line at the grocery store, or you run into your cranky neighbour, or your child is having a fit, stop and listen to what they actually have to say. You may be amazed at what they say, you may even be able to do something right then and there to help them out.
All it takes is for you to stop and listen. The rest will come naturally.