Children Have Feelings. Just Like Grownups.

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girl-person-human-femaleMy eight-year old curled up under my arm and sighed an old-soul sigh. “You know, mom, grown ups sometimes think that kids don’t feel things like they do. But we do.”

I was about to correct her: of course I know that kids have feelings. That day had seen no less than three full-blown wailing fits of our youngest Feeling All The Feels about being told no/having to share/not being allowed (another) snack. What is the preschooler life if not Full of Drama?

But that’s not what she was saying. Or maybe, that’s exactly what she was saying. Because I, like other grownups, have a tendency to dismiss the drama and in doing so, sometimes invalidate the real emotion underneath there. “Tantrums get you nothing,” we’ve been telling our kids since they were little. “Whining doesn’t work.”

But my eldest kid has a point: she feels anger. She feels grief. She feels loneliness, and injustice, and jealousy. She feels joy, and compassion, and generosity. Kids may not have language for all those feelings (many adults don’t either), and they may not express them appropriately (again, many adults don’t either) – but I’m making a mistake if I treat my kids as if their responses are attention-getting-behaviors without acknowledging the real emotions that underlie them.

I’ve been trying to pay attention to what my daughter said—that little truth that everyone, no matter how small, has feelings—and the strangest thing has been happening: I’m growing in empathy. My whining preschooler is whining, and the whining is not okay, but somehow it has helped me to think that he might be lonely or frustrated or feeling invisible. My kids are fighting and doors get slammed, and somehow it helps to remember that I also feel irritated and frustrated when I have to share space with others all day long and that this squabble is not just about our kids forgetting polite manners or the house-rules about slamming doors. And, later in the day, when a telemarketer calls just in the middle of the dinner rush, it helps to remember that this person’s sole goal in life is not to sell me a product, but that they have a life and that they have feelings, too. “No, thank you, I’m hanging up now” are better words than what I was tempted to say…

Kids have feelings. Just like grownups. I feel like I should know that, but as with so many things in life – I’m learning it afresh in the real-world of child-raising. And just in case you find the reminder as helpful as I did, I’m sharing it with you.

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5 thoughts on “Children Have Feelings. Just Like Grownups.”

  1. I remember having a similar aha! moment with my child–I was complaining in my head about how childish she was being about something. Then I thought, “She is acting childish because she is a child.” It’s hard to remember they are not little adults, but beginners learning out how to navigate what can be a bewildering life.

  2. One reason I refuse to consider children merely to be miniature adults is because when it comes to what’s on the inside there is nothing miniature about them.

    1. Yes, they have *BIG* feelings. I have a question though: how would you say you consider children? I always appreciated my mom saying she didn’t just feel she was raising children, but that she was raising adults – she had a vision for our “future selves” when it came to her goals and expectations. This is something I find I waver between: on the one hand letting my expectations match their age (I always find it helpful when frustrated with our youngest to say in my head: “what are you? FOUR?” – and then remember that yes, he is four, and I should expect such behavior 🙂 )… and yet also not underestimating that they may be little but they are fully human and fully themselves. Would love to hear any more thoughts on this if you had any.

      1. “they may be little but they are fully human and fully themselves” – that is exactly how I’ve looked at over the years. At each age they have been fully themselves and yet still growing into who they will be. But so am I and so are you and so is every adult on the planet. And now that my kids are adults they too are in that still growing life that we all share.

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