A modern lifestyle brand redefining motherhood

We can’t protect our kids from their emotions—in fact, we shouldn’t

When my client Daniel first came to see me, he couldn’t understand why his 4-year-old daughter was throwing severe tantrums when she didn’t get her way. He told me, “It’s like Emma can’t deal with anything. She freaks out over every little thing, especially when she doesn’t get her way.”


He couldn’t understand why, after all his hard work and the comfortable lifestyle he’d created for his family, his daughter still didn’t seem happy with anything. The more upset he saw her get, the easier it was for him to just give in to her.

What Daniel didn’t understand, however, is that even though you can momentarily relieve another person’s anguish, you can’t take away their suffering forever. In fact, trying to do so may actually harm you and make things worse for the people you’re attempting to shelter from the facts of life.

It’s a simple fact of life that everyone is guaranteed the experience of not getting what they want, and not being instantly gratified. And as they get older, there will be countless things they’ll have to do on a daily basis they won’t necessarily like.

Unfair things will happen to them, regardless of who they are. But the same applies to our children as applies to everyone.

By attempting to shelter the people we love from the natural process of life, we rob them of the ability to develop the strength and resilience they need to overcome challenging circumstances.

If we never take off the bubble wrap and rarely say no, our children may become incapable of tolerating or managing the inconveniences of life—they’ll demand instant gratification and, over time, develop impulse control issues.

When we see our beloved children suffering from their inability to tolerate difficulty, and we don’t understand why this is happening, we invest all our energy into helping them. We try harder to shelter them, instead of allowing them to be anxious and find their own way to deal with life’s inevitable disappointments.

Daniel was acting with the best of intentions. He thought he was being a good parent, and the last thing he meant to do was contribute to his daughter’s inability to cope with difficult circumstances. Although Daniel couldn’t change the past, he could learn how his need to shelter, say yes, and fix everything was getting in the way of his daughter’s ability to manage herself during tantrums.

It’s natural for parents to want to protect their children from being upset; it feels unnatural to watch them cry.

However, if we learn how to distinguish real hurt from an opportunity for our children to explore and learn to manage their own emotions, we’ll be more capable of taking a step back when necessary. We’ll allow them to learn that it’s okay to shed the bubble wrap and stop being sheltered by the word “yes.”

So should I just let my kid cry?

I get it. When we’re caught up in the moment, it’s easy to do whatever it takes to calm our children down. However, the consequences of overprotecting our children in this way can lead to worse consequences. Research shows that children who have been overly protected from their own emotions lack a sense of agency over their own lives and are more prone to develop unfulfilling relationships in the future.

Instead of trying to rescue our children from potential hurt feelings, we can better serve them by resisting the urge to step in, take over, and give in.

Modeling mature emotional regulation in difficult situations might be challenging in the short-term, but the long-term benefits are more than worth it. Setting children up to be content in life doesn’t happen by sheltering them from suffering—rather, it comes from teaching them how to self-soothe during difficult times.

Daniel began to show his daughter how to manage challenging emotions like anger, frustration, and, disappointment instead of trying to shield her from them.

Instead of running to her rescue, he sat with his discomfort and allowed her to get through her own. When parents effectively manage their emotions in front of their children, they help their children develop emotional maturity.

This is important work for us to take on, because children who don’t learn how to regulate their feelings will look outside themselves for sources of soothing as they get older. They might self-medicate with food, drugs, and alcohol; hold on to bad relationships; and become codependent. When they become too anxious, too sad, or too easily triggered, they may end up reaching for counterproductive ways to reduce their anxiety in the moment.

So what’s the takeaway here? Allow your children to work through difficult feelings; don’t try to stop them from falling by giving in.

The times we tend to get stumped with our children are usually our best opportunities for maturity and growth—not only theirs, but ours too! Children won’t fall apart due to difficult emotions if you model for them what it’s like to work through them.

As parenting expert Robin Berman, M.D puts it, “A big part of mental health is feeling at home with your emotions, knowing that you will not have to avoid feelings, or numb them, but knowing that you have the emotional flexibility and emotional resilience to feel safe with yourself.”

Comments20x20 ExportCreated with Sketch.
Who said motherhood doesn't come with a manual?

Subscribe to get inspiration and super helpful ideas to rock your #momlife. Motherhood looks amazing on you.

Already a subscriber? Log in here.

Summer heat has a way of making the house feel smaller, more congested, with less room for the air to circulate. And there's nothing like the heat to make me want to strip down, cool off and lighten my load. So, motivation in three digits, now that school is back in, it's time to do a purge.

Forget the spring clean—who has time for that? Those last few months of the school year are busier than the first. And summer's warm weather entices our family outdoors on the weekends, which doesn't leave much time for re-organizing.

So, I seize the opportunity when my kids are back in school to enter my zone.

I love throwing open every closet and cupboard door, pulling out anything and everything that doesn't fit our bodies or our lives. Each joyless item purged peels off another oppressive layer of "not me" or "not us."

Stuff can obscure what really makes us feel light, capable and competent.

Stuff can stem the flow of what makes our lives work.

With my kids back in school, I am energized, motivated by the thought that I have the space to be in my head with no interruptions. No refereeing. No snacks. No naps… I am tossing. I am folding. I am stacking. I am organizing. I don't worry about having to stop. The neat-freak in me is having a field day.

Passing bedroom doors, ajar and flashing their naughty bits of chaos at me, it's more than I can handle in terms of temptation. I have to be careful, though, because I can get on a roll. Taking to my kids' rooms I tread carefully, always aware that what I think is junk can actually be their treasure.

But I usually have a good sense for what has been abandoned or invisible in plain sight for the lack of movement or the accumulation of dust. Anything that fits the description gets relegated to a box in the garage where it is on standby—in case its absence is noticed and a meltdown has ensued. Crisis averted. Either way, it's a victory.

Oh, it's quiet. So, so quiet. And I can think it all through…

Do we really need all this stuff?

Will my son really notice if I toss all this stuff?

Will my daughter be heartbroken if I donate all this stuff?

Will I really miss this dress I wore three years ago that barely fit my waist then and had me holding in my tummy all night, and that I for sure cannot zip today?

Can we live without it all? All. This. Stuff?

The fall purge always gets me wondering, where in the world does all this stuff come from? So with the beginning of the school year upon us, I vow to create a new mindset to evaluate everything that enters my home from now on, so that there will be so much less stuff.

I vow to really think about objects before they enter my home…

…to evaluate what is really useful,

...to consider when it would be useful,

...to imagine where it would be useful,

...to remember why it may be useful,

…to decide how to use it in more than one way,

... so that all this stuff won't get in the way of what really matters—time and attention for my kids and our lives as a new year reveals more layers of the real stuff—what my kids are made of.

Bring it on.

You might also like:

In the moments after we give birth, we desperately want to hear our baby cry. In the middle of the night a few months later it's no longer exactly music to our ears, but those cries aren't just telling us that baby needs a night feeding: They're also giving us a hint at what our children may sound like as kindergarteners, and adults.

New research published in the journal Biology Letters suggests the pitch of a 4-month-old's cry predicts the pitch they'll use to ask for more cookies at age five and maybe even later on as adults.

The study saw 2 to 5-month olds recorded while crying. Five years later, the researchers hit record again and chatted with the now speaking children. Their findings, combined with previous work on the subject, suggest it's possible to figure out what a baby's voice will sound like later in life, and that the pitch of our adult voices may be traceable back to the time we spend in utero. Further studies are needed, but scientists are very interested in how factors before birth can impact decades later.

"In utero, you have a lot of different things that can alter and impact your life — not only as a baby, but also at an adult stage," one of the authors of the study, Nicolas Mathevon, told the New York Times.

The New York Times also spoke with Carolyn Hodges, an assistant professor of anthropology at Boston University who was not involved in the study. According to Hodges, while voice pitch may not seem like a big deal, it impacts how we perceive people in very real ways.

Voice pitch is a factor in how attractive we think people are, how trustworthy. But why we find certain pitches more or less appealing isn't known. "There aren't many studies that address these questions, so that makes this research especially intriguing," Hodges said, adding that it "suggests that individual differences in voice pitch may have their origins very, very early in development."

So the pitch of that midnight cry may have been determined months ago, and it may determine part of your child's future, too. There are still so many things we don't know, but as parents we do know one thing: Our babies cries (as much as we don't want to hear them all the time) really are something special.

You might also like:

For many years, Serena Williams seemed as perfect as a person could be. But now, Serena is a mom. She's imperfect and she's being honest about that and we're so grateful.

On the cover of TIME, Williams owns her imperfection, and in doing so, she gives mothers around the world permission to be as real as she is being.

"Nothing about me right now is perfect," she told TIME. "But I'm perfectly Serena."

The interview sheds light on Williams' recovery from her traumatic birth experience, and how her mental health has been impacted by the challenges she's faced in going from a medical emergency to new motherhood and back to the tennis court all within one year.

"Some days, I cry. I'm really sad. I've had meltdowns. It's been a really tough 11 months," she said.

It would have been easy for Williams to keep her struggles to herself over the last year. She didn't have to tell the world about her life-threatening birth experience, her decision to stop breastfeeding, her maternal mental health, how she missed her daughter's first steps, or any of it. But she did share these experiences, and in doing so she started incredibly powerful conversations on a national stage.

After Serena lost at Wimbledon this summer, she told the mothers watching around the world that she was playing for them. "And I tried," she said through tears. "I look forward to continuing to be back out here and doing what I do best."

In the TIME cover story, what happened before that match, where Williams lost to Angelique Kerber was revealed. TIME reports that Williams checked her phone about 10 minutes before the match, and learned, via Instagram, that the man convicted of fatally shooting her sister Yetunde Price, in 2003 is out on parole.

"I couldn't shake it out of my mind," Serena says. "It was hard because all I think about is her kids," she says. She was playing for all the mothers out there, but she had a specific mother on her mind during that historic match.

Williams' performance at Wimbledon wasn't perfect, and neither is she, as she clearly states on the cover of time. But motherhood isn't perfect either. It's okay to admit that. Thanks, Serena, for showing us how.

You might also like:

There are some mornings where I wake up and I'm ready for the day. My alarm goes off and I pop out of bed and hum along as I make breakfast before my son wakes up. But then there are days where I just want 10 more minutes to sleep in. Or breakfast feels impossible to make because all our time has run out. Or I just feel overwhelmed and unprepared.

Those are the mornings I stare at the fridge and think, Can someone else just make breakfast, please?

Enter: make-ahead breakfasts. We spoke to the geniuses at Pinterest and they shared their top 10 pins all around this beautiful, planned-ahead treat. Here they are.

(You're welcome, future self.)

1. Make-ahead breakfast enchiladas

www.pinterest.com

Created by Bellyful

I'd make these for dinner, too.

You might also like:

Motherly provides information of a general nature and is designed for educational purposes only. This site does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.Your use of the site indicates your agreement to be bound by our  Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. Information on our advertising guidelines can be found here.