You DO want your kids to be unhappy, and here's why

You DO want your kids to be unhappy, and here's why

Recently, I’ve read some articles like this and this. Therein, the authors discuss putting marriage and spouse before children, and the backlash received from readers for doing so.

The reason for this backlash, I believe, is that we place our children’s happiness above all else. We feel as if we’ve failed when our children cry, or when they’re angry, or if they react unfavorably to hardship.

This is simply not true.

You DO want your kids to be unhappy, and here’s why:

1) You want your kid to experience all the emotions. I cringe when I hear parents scold their children: “Stop crying. Don’t be sad.” Wrong! First of all, this isn’t going to work, and will probably make her even more sad. Secondly, you want your child to feel sadness so that you can comfort her, and also…

2) You want your kids to recognize/identify the emotions. We are a culture of distractions. Kid is bored/angry/crying? Throw an iPhone in her face. She’ll forget, momentarily, why she’s upset. No, no, no. “It looks like you’re angry right now. How does that feel when you’re angry? When I get angry, I feel…”

It was 30 years before someone told me that it’s okay to be angry. I always thought that emotions were either negative or positive. Anger was definitely a “bad” feeling to have, and therefore, I was doing something wrong if I was experiencing it. Anger is not bad: it gets shit done. (Where would activism or social change be without anger and outrage?)

Now, I tell my three year old that it’s okay to be angry. It is not okay to yell or hit, which brings me to #3.

3) You want to prepare your kids to handle the emotions. The reason that emotions get the “good” or “bad” label is because many of us handle them poorly (myself included). We’ve all acted unfavorably when angry, sad, etc. Your kid is going to suck at handling disappointment early on, so get used to it. But what you shouldn’t do is avoid it all together.

My kid loooves Halloween. We are at Home Depot, at least once a week, to see all the Halloween decorations. There is a house nearby that goes all out for the spooky holiday, and we drove over to see it last night. At dinner, it’s all we talked about. In the car, we reminisced about the inflatable black cat and skeleton on the bicycle. We pulled up to the house, and were greeted by a beautiful, newly renovated home…

…with zero Halloween decorations.

Me: This isn’t it. This isn’t the house!

Husband: They must have sold it.

3-year-old: Where’s the black cat, Daddy?

Me and Husband: Oh, buddy…

We pulled to the curb and explained to him what had happened. Tears. Real tears rolled down his chubby cheeks. I took his hand in mine. “I’m sorry, buddy. I was really excited to see the decorations with you. This makes me very sad.”

I kicked myself, “I should have driven by and checked,” I thought. “I could have prevented this.”

But why? Lack of Halloween decorations are not going to be the epitome of disappointment in my son’s life. He’s going to get cut from teams, get dumped by girls, and experience loss that is far greater than this.

Your job is not to make sure that your kid is happy. Your job is to teach. If you do all the right things, your kid will be happy. It’s a byproduct of good parenting.

Good parents allow their children to be unhappy. They see it as a blessing, not a curse, and use it as a teachable moment. May you experience, recognize, and handle ALL the emotions with your children, not just the “good” ones.

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