Less is sometimes more: instead of endless acknowledgment mantras, you do better for the child and your own nerves if you say a simple sentence as a way of reassurance.
Parents’ hearts are torn, squeezed, or crushed when they see their children in distress. This can then be followed by hair-tearing and teeth-grinding, when the anxiety becomes hysterical, which only leads to greater and greater extremes, just as the parent tries to calm down the only precious apple of his eye, who if only he could stop the circus for once, then mother/father is really, really would be happy. According to Claire Lerner, a clinical social worker and child development specialist, contrary to the parenting tips trending on social media (and their misinterpretations), you can’t calm a child by constantly chanting emotional validation and empathizing phrases for a child under emotional stress, it usually only makes the situation worse. Instead, children need something completely different from their parents.
Sometimes less is more – the same is true when it comes to calming children
According to Lerner, parents try very hard to get the most out of themselves in this role, but because of this, they tend to overdo it. They don’t want to see their child stressed, so they do everything to relieve the little one’s inner tension. Misinterpreting the parenting tips they see on social media makes them feel guilty if they don’t constantly bombard their child with empathetic phrases to show that they empathize with their situation, or try to get them to talk about their feelings at all costs, while never moving away from them. It sounds logical in theory, but the experience of reality shows that this behavior only adds fuel to the fire.
Acknowledging mantras is more frightening than comforting
When the waves of stress hit high, children’s brains are overflowing with a lot of emotions and they can’t think clearly, which is not surprising when we consider that as adults we can fall into the same trap, we just don’t get stressed because we have to go home from the playground, but let’s say that our couple can’t bring the child home from kindergarten in time, despite what we agreed on in advance. In such an emotional state, children only lose their heads even more if their parents constantly throw them supportive messages (e.g.: “I know how difficult it is right now… you are so angry/sad right now… you are experiencing great emotions… this can be very difficult now for you…I am here with you…I understand”). The children are even more upset when they hear them. Often anxiety, which can also appear hysterical, indicates a deeper desire: that they want to be calm. After all, even in the case of adults, anger is only a secondary feeling, behind which a more vulnerable emotion hides, be it fear or hurt.
When their parents try to involve them in the role of problem solvers in such a frustrating emotional situation, not much good can come of it in the end. After all, if we put our hands on our hearts, we can admit that we ourselves are not usually able to do this either: problem-solving can only come into the picture after we have managed to calm down to some extent. In addition, it can increase stress for children when they are asked to think back to the unpleasant situation that upset them.
Instead of validation, self-confidence is destroyed by non-stop “This must be very difficult”
The children read two very bad messages out of the many validating sentences. On the one hand, the situation is really so serious that they are not able to cope with it themselves. On the other hand, their parents don’t think they are capable of tolerating frustrations on their own, nor are they capable of resolving them. In this case, they receive similar messages as from overprotective parenting: when parents always step in as substitutes for their children to solve their problems, they take away from the children the precious treasure of allowing their self-confidence to develop naturally as a child.
INSTEAD, ACCORDING TO LERNER, WE’RE BETTER OFF JUST SAYING ONE SIMPLE, LOVING VALIDATION SENTENCE AND THEN GIVING THE CHILD SOME SPACE.
With this, we can simultaneously show that his feelings are important to us, that we understand and accept them, that we are not angry with him, and that we trust in his abilities to overcome his difficult situation. It looks like the creation of security and the ability to live independently and competently meet at the same time :
- “It’s hard to leave the playground before you’re ready. Would you like to get into the child seat by yourself, or would you like me to help you with it?”
- “Puzzles can sometimes be difficult and frustrating. Would you like some help with it – I have an idea or two – or would you rather start again after a little break?”
- “Your teacher said you take it badly when your friends don’t want to play a game the way you want. I’d be happy to talk to you about it when you feel ready.”
So it is better to follow the principle of less is sometimes more, even when our seedling’s anxiety manifests itself in an angry, hysterical, whining version, and we try to calm it down. Let’s provide understanding, and empathic security, but also let them feel that we think our child is capable of handling the situation. Don’t inflate the given problem bigger than it is with non-stop validating sentences, because that only scares the child even more, as we make him feel that the problem is really huge.