Thumbnail image for emotesbookcover.jpegAs a mother and former schoolteacher, I have strong feelings about the importance of empowering children. I don’t just mean your own. It’s important to be cognizant of how you speak with other people’s kids too! When I was on Oprah, we discussed how critical it is to teach kids by action, not just with words. By empowering yourself, you also empower your kids–another motivation to leave DoorMatville!

That’s why I’m so happy to have  Matt Casper, MFT, as my guest today and tomorrow. Matt is a
licensed psychotherapist with a private practice in Los Angeles,
California. He’s also an author of the award-winning Emotes! book series. This collection
of picture books and comics helps children learn how to identify, accept
and express their emotions by following a cast of modern anime-style
characters each with their own emotional superpower. Here’s what he has to say:

Empowered Adults Encourage Empowered Children: Happiness Breeds Happiness.
By Matt Casper, MFT

Happiness is feeling secure with being you. Happiness isn’t the result of perfection; it is the result of accepting and embracing the imperfections that make each individual interesting.  If you celebrate the uniqueness of your self, the positive attitude that develops will spread to the children in your life. Happiness is infectious!
The emotions of adults have a huge impact on the development of children.

When adults are accepting of their own imperfections and their own emotions, they are better prepared to provide the unconditional love that children require. As a psychotherapist, I try to maintain authenticity with my clients–I don’t pretend to know all the answers. I feel that we are on a journey together. I am standing beside my clients to provide encouragement and support in the process of their own self-discovery. This can be a very unfamiliar experience for many clients who had parents intolerant of their own imperfections and emotions–adults who were not adequately supported in their process of self-discovery. 

Reinforce the process, not just the ‘success.’

Children are often praised when they win a game or complete a task, and that’s perfectly okay–it’s important to reinforce the completion of a goal. However, when a child is overly praised for being inherently “wonderful” and “talented,” it sets up an expectation that the child must maintain consistent “wonderful-ness” and that wonderful-ness means completing every goal. In reality, there are times when the child WON’T complete a goal, they won’t win the spelling bee, won’t score the winning point or gain entrance to the college that their parents once attended.  It is therefore essential that adults positively reinforce children for embracing and undertaking the process of facing challenges. Reward the courage it takes to try something new, rather than only praising the achievement of a goal.

It’s crucial that a child feels that they have permission to stumble and sometimes to fall–it is in these struggles where true emotional strength is built. Teaching children that they are ultimately good, even when bad things happen will help a child to develop a secure identity. When bad things do happen (which is inevitable in everyone’s life journey), then a child will have the emotional strength to traverse their life path with hope, a positive outlook and emotional strength.

Children use trusted adults as emotional ‘refueling stations’ as they venture further out into the world.

As children develop, they begin to explore the world on their own, undertaking a journey that sometimes puts them at a distance from the security of caregivers. Next time you spend time with young children, watch for those moments when a child might suddenly dart in from another room just to quickly touch the hand or ask for a hug from a trusted adult before running off again. This is an emotional recharge–a moment of reassurance that the child can venture out into the world while still knowing that a caregiver is present and nearby, ready to provide protection and support.
A child is constantly discovering new things about who they are as an individual and who they are in relation to others.
New feelings emerge in response to these discoveries, which can often be very painful and scary. Children begin to realize that their mommy can be frustrating when she isn’t available when they are hungry, or when daddy isn’t around when some emotional refueling is needed right away.  This disappointment can introduce children to feelings such as anger, envy, sadness and frustration for the first time in their young lives. It’s no wonder that babies and children shriek, scream and cry; these are unpleasant emotions to feel.

Children need adults to be their emotional sewage treatment plants.

If an adults are uncomfortable with their own feelings of anger, envy, sadness and frustration, then they certainly won’t be ready to tolerate the emotions of a developing child. Just as parents change countless dirty diapers, it’s also the job of the parent to contain a child’s feelings…even if they feel yucky. When an adult discourages the expression of feelings, (“big boys don’t cry” “frowns need to be turned upside down”) the message is given that certain feelings are dirty and shameful and should not be expressed. Children need to know that adults can handle their “dirty feelings”, and that they will not be rejected for having their emotional needs.  
It’s far too common that kids become the containers for the emotional trash of adults.

If for example, a parent struggles with feelings of worthlessness and incompetence and is unconscious of these feelings, they then have the tendency to project these feelings onto their children. In an attempt to avoid looking at their own “yucky feelings” adults begin to see children as the ones who are incompetent and worthless. Children need and crave the approval of their caregivers, and so are unfortunately easy targets for these harmful projections. The tragedy is when children begin to identify with and believe these projections.  When children are forced to take on the denied and discarded feelings from adults, they in essence become an emotional trash can. It’s our job as adults to make sure that we take out our own emotional trash and not dump it on our children. 

Check out Matt Casper‘s fabulous Emotes! book series that
teaches kids some wonderful lessons! Tomorrow he’ll share more advice.

Please leave comments under my posts so we can stay connected.

More from Beliefnet and our partners
Close Ad