This is a topic I have been debating for some time. It is common in the Early Childhood Education field to dumb down the feelings of adults when we talk to children. Let me give you an example.
A child hits another child repeatedly, laughing the whole time! Don’t tell me you’ve never seen it! How does the world say we should respond? “Billy, it makes me sad that you hit your friend. Please apologize.”
ARE YOU KIDDING ME! You made me sad? In actuality, that VERY bad behavior makes me angry. It makes me angry that you would ever think it’s okay to hurt your friend. It makes me even angrier that you thought it was FUNNY!
Am I really the only one who thinks this is crazy? I think a child can handle me saying, “What you did to Sarah makes me mad. You know it’s not okay to hurt your friends. Do you see Sarah crying? You hurt her and made her sad.”
Do I need to use the word “sad” instead on angry, mad, upset, confused, etc.? On the flip side, is “happy” the end all of pride, excitement, joy, etc.??
Here’s my point: How can we expect children to express their feelings when adults only feel “sad” or “happy.” Even a two year old understands the differences in basic emotions. For example, ask your young child to show you a happy face….sad face…now branch into other words. How do you show excitement? How to you show love? How do you show someone you’re angry?
Kids desperately need role models to model how to conduct themselves with ALL feelings. If I can tell a child calmly that what they did upset me, but I don’t hit, push, bite, or yell….I think I’ve taught them a lot more than if I just expressed myself using the word “sad.”
Let’s help children handle all of their emotions in a healthy way, instead of hiding that mommy is upset or (god forbid) even angry! And if you’re like me, and sometimes extreme frustration comes with tears…try to explain that to your child too. I guarantee they are feeling the same things you are!
Feel free to disagree, but I would take some time to reflect on this in your own home, classroom, or wherever you come in contact with children. Not all “sheltering” is healthy. In this case, I think dumbing down our emotions in hurting the emotional intelligence of our children.