The other day I saw an article on Facebook about the benefits of spanking your children. Upon further investigation it was actually refuting these so-called benefits. I shared the article with the following comment:
“In my humble opinion, as parents we can not expect more from our children than we expect from ourselves, and actions speak a lot louder than words when it comes to shaping the adults our children will become. We can not tell our children “use your words” if we ourselves are resorting to hitting. We can not tell them to keep their hands to themselves, when we are putting our hands on them. We can not tell them to treat others as they would like to be treated and hit them, knowing full well we wouldn’t appreciate someone hitting us.”
I wholeheartedly believe it is far more important to let people feel what they feel, rather than suppress those feelings and that goes for little people especially. I posted an article a few days ago about why it is important for adults to own their emotions, but I don’t think this is advice that is exclusive to grown ups. Children are people too, and as stated above I do not think we should have harsher standards for them than we do for ourselves. Kids have rough days. Kids get their feelings hurt. Kids sometimes feel sad and can’t place their finger on what exactly is the matter. Without meaning to, I think parents can sometimes trivialize their children’s emotions because compared to an adult’s their problems are “small.” But, how would we feel if when we were having a bad day, someone belittled us for feeling the way we were feeling because they felt our problems small by comparison?
When our children are experiencing more challenging emotions, those feelings are just as real as our adult ones. In those moments our children don’t need us to tell them to pull themselves up by their boot straps, or be made to feel like their hurt is invalid. They need us to be there with them. They need us to guide them through what they’re feeling, and they need to learn how to express those emotions in healthy, productive ways.
So, when I say let them cry, much like the article I wrote for adults, I do not mean let them wallow. I do not mean let them go into a rage or dissolve into self-pity. I mean, give them a moment to process their feelings. Give them the space to express themselves emotionally. Show them that you respect their experience. And then teach them how to go forward.