Nothing brings a parent more joy than noticing her child smiling, and seeing the happy twinkle in his eyes and the sparkle in his smile.
To make your child that happy is what you live for, right? You work very hard to create a world around your child that makes him as happy as possible. It’s natural to want to protect him from disappointment, ward off frustration, and avoid things that may be too challenging. In any individual moment, this keeps your child happy. However, in the long run, overdoing your happiness fortress can create some significant challenges.
For example, always saying “yes” means your child will not understand when he is told “no,” which, as we all know, often happens in the larger world. Also, consistently protecting your child from disappointment means he will not be able to navigate when things don’t go his way. At the heart of the matter, if you’re always protecting your child from challenges, his problem-solving skills will not be honed.
The best way to love your child is to teach him to overcome struggles, to problem-solve challenges, and to accept that he cannot always have exactly what he wants, every moment that he wants it. It might be difficult to watch your children struggle, but it’s essential to let him do so. Keep your eye on the big picture.
You have a choice: do you want your child to be happy right now and struggle in the long-term, OR, do you want your child to struggle right now with your support and in the long-term be happy? The choice is up to you!
My recommendation is to aim for long-term happiness in your child. You can make the switch in approach by trying a behavioral adjustment:
Start by saying “No” some of the time to your child and do not provide a significant justification. The practice of teaching your child to accept “no” is much more important than the ice cream he wants. Often, we get caught up in the moment of happiness (having the ice cream) and forget about the big goal (teaching your child to accept “no”).
Place your child in situations that are too hard for him. One of two things will happen: either he will ask for help, which is a great skill to practice, or he will surprise you by figuring out something you thought he could not. Often times our kiddos are more creative than we expect, and given the opportunity, they will find a solution.
If he comes to you with a problem or is upset, don’t automatically fix it. Ask your child what he will do about it, which will build his problem-solving skills. The important thing is to move on after his brainstorming. This teaches your child to refocus his attention. Letting your child stew in frustration only to have you fix it does not lead to sustainable happiness or life skills.
Create a difficult task for your child to complete (this is my personal favorite). I like giving kids boxes they can’t open with a fabulous surprise inside. All of a sudden they are incredible problem solvers!
When you work on one of these techniques, accept that there might be some pushback, but stick to it. Creating resilient and resourceful children is the greatest gift you can give the world.
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Dr. Marcie Beigel is a behavioral therapist based in Brooklyn. She has worked with thousands of families for more than 15 years and has condensed her observations into her practice and programs. For more on her, visit www.Behav