All Feelings Are Valid
All feelings are valid. This seems like an obvious statement, but in our busy lives as parents it's easy to forget to respect our children's feelings. As a mom of four young children I know how outbursts can seem out of control. Kids emotions can be loud, messy and hard to handle! Instead of trying to control my children's emotions I let them express how they feel in the moment. You know what they say, "the wildest colts make the best horses". I think children are often trivialized in our society. "It's ok, you're fine", "Don't be a scaredy cat", or a fast "No" with no consideration are common expressions that would not be used when talking to an adult.
I believe that too much of this can hurt a child's self esteem, making him think his feelings are meaningless.Here are some general examples that I think parents get frustrated with often:-An infant cries for his mother to hold her... Is this any different than an adult asking a loved one or friend for help?
I personally believe infants should be held by their parents almost all the time so that cuts out the question of when to pick them up. I carry my four month old in a Boba Wrap so she can be with me and I have the freedom to move and use both hands. When a baby cries it means something 100% of the time.-A two year old getting into everything can be hard for a parent, but it is so important for his development to explore his world.
I believe children need to explore. If all they hear is "No" or are stuck in their playpens, they aren't learning! Yes, it takes a lot of time to safely parent a child at this age but it's worth it!
-A five year old is frustrated with a toy or friend and throws a fit...
This might not be pleasing to the eyes or ears, but giving the child a time out or ignoring him tells him his feelings are not OK. Feelings of frustration are a normal part of life. By not acknowledging a child's natural emotions he may end up feeling guilty for even having them.
-I have 5 year old twin girls and believe me, they throw fits! When it's happening I always first remind myself that they are NOT trying to upset me! I remember all the huge things that are going on in their little lives: their bodies are growing, their lives are constantly changing, they just became big sisters, maybe they're hungry or tired (yes these last two are huge to a five year old). They just need love, help and understanding.
-A nine year old gets stuck on a video game level and is sad, mad or frustrated. This may seem trivial to an adult but is really important to the child. Telling him it's "no big deal" implies that his feeling are wrong.
I know I can remember being a kid and thinking everything in my life was just as important as the things in my adult life now. I know my son feels the same about his video games or the stories that he writes and I want to show him that his interests are important to me too.
So, hold your baby when he wants you, help your two year old check everything out, play with your four year old and nine year old even if Candyland or Super Mario aren't your thing. LISTEN to them above everything else! When nothing else works, just be there with them and listen to whatever they want to tell you.
As parents we can be advocates for our children in every way. We can take a step back from work, bills, cleaning, and all our "important" stuff. We can remember what it was like to be a child, and how it felt to be trivialized. We can tell them how important they are by showing them courtesy and respect and paying attention to all their emotions, even the ones we don't particularly like. It will mean the world to them, I promise!
For more reading on this subject I suggest:
Guidance vs Discipline
Emotions are not Bad Behavior
Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves