The idea that we can influence our child’s behavior by focusing only on their behavior is simply put, a recipe for disaster. I’m not saying ignore bad behavior – far from it. But if you separate your child’s feelings from the way they are behaving, you are not giving them the proper tools to guide their behavior going forward. Behavior stems from a feeling. It doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Changing your child’s behavior without allowing them to understand the connection to the way they are feeling will maybe give you short term change – not what most parents want.
All feelings, good and bad, are important and useful. In many different ways, understanding their feelings will help your child have better relationships with their friends, be more successful at school, and feel happier about who they are. Here are some ideas on feelings to ponder over:
- Understanding their feelings will help your child decide what they like and what they don’t, what they like doing and what they don’t like doing, and who they like and who they don’t. Their feelings guide them in decision-making. When their behavior follows what feels right for them, they are more likely to do things well and be happier overall, regardless of whether their feelings are good or bad.
- Bad things happen to every person. It is part of being human. At some point in their life your child will experience sadness, frustration, disappointment, and anger. Everyone does. Learning to understand these feelings will prepare them to deal with them better in the future. A healthy recipe for life’s happiness has to include feeling sad sometimes and acknowledging that.
- A person who understands their feelings will be able to better understand other people’s feelings. Understanding how other people feel is called empathy. To understand another person’s feelings does not mean you have to have the same experiences as them. For example, one child may be afraid of dogs and the other afraid of the dark. They may be afraid of different things, but the feeling of being afraid is similar.
- Having empathy helps you get along with others. When other people feel that you understand the way they feel, it makes them feel good about themselves and good about you. Good relationships happen when people understand each other’s feelings. (This is not specific to children)
Don’t be too quick to rush in and make your child feel better when they are sad, angry or scared. Let them experience the feeling and feel confident in the knowledge that with each minute that you allow them that experience, they are learning things about themselves that will help them face, with strength, a life that is not always kind.