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How to Raising Resilient Kids


We all want our children to be happy. It is a natural instinct. But according to Tovah Klein, an Ivy League child psychologist, the path to a happy child is paved with moments of unhappiness. Intrigued? You should be, because this counter-intuitive approach may just hold the key to raising resilient, well-adjusted adults.

Happiness as a Constant State

We live in a culture that values happiness above all else, especially for our children. But Klein, who directs the Barnard College Center for Toddler Development, warns against this mindset. She points out that children already know how to find joy. It is the other emotions they need help navigating.

Allowing Space for Negative Emotions

Klein argues that parents struggle with allowing their children to experience “unpleasant” emotions like anger, sadness, or frustration. We swoop in with a slice of chocolate cake or a trip to the park, thinking that’s the solution. While such gestures aren’t inherently wrong, they often miss addressing the real issue at hand.

Why Temporary Fixes Won’t Work

When a child is upset about seemingly trivial matters—like the wrong brand of cookies or not getting to watch another episode of their favorite show—our first instinct is to dismiss or trivialize their concerns. Klein warns against this. To the child, their emotional reaction is valid, and they need to learn how to cope with it constructively.

The Importance of Articulation

One way to help your child navigate their feelings is to encourage them to articulate what they are feeling. Instead of offering a quick fix, say something like, “I understand you’re upset, but we can’t do that right now.” This validates their emotions without immediately solving the problem for them.

Building Emotional Resilience

By allowing children to experience and cope with their negative emotions, we give them an essential skill: resilience. This emotional strength is crucial in navigating the ups and downs they’ll inevitably face as they grow up. This resilience also reassures them that their parents will remain a steady presence, even when emotions run high.

Why Suppressing Feelings is Harmful

Klein points out that children who aren’t taught to handle their negative emotions effectively are more likely to develop long-term behavioral issues. They can even become ashamed of these natural feelings, leading to self-doubt and thoughts like, “I must be bad; there’s something wrong with me.”

Embrace the Full Spectrum of Emotions for Lasting Happiness

The most difficult thing for a parent is to see their child unhappy. But as Klein notes, this discomfort is a necessary evil if we want our children to grow up resilient and well-adjusted. In the long run, they’re not just more likely to be successful adults—they’re also more likely to be genuinely happy ones.

Thank you for joining us on this enlightening journey through the emotional lives of our children. By embracing Klein’s expert advice, we can raise kids who are not just happy, but resilient, thoughtful, and emotionally intelligent.

Written by
Clara Underwood

Clara is a lifestyle writer, outdoors enthusiast, and a mother of two. She writes about everything from weekend family outings in nature to fostering emotional intelligence in children. Clara believes that a balanced family life is the cornerstone of a healthy society.