"My daughter is always miserable.She has everything to be happy about — she’s healthy, smart, and beautiful; our family is far from poor; we live in a wonderful community; she gets practically everything she wants.Despite all this, if I say, ‘No, you can’t do something or have something,’ she puts on a look like she’s the most deprived human being on earth.I’ve told her I’ve had enough.Of course, that just makes her sulk more.What am I supposed to do? ”
If a child is miserable “all the time,” she doesn’t have an “attitude” problem; she has an emotional problem.Truly grumpy children, teens, and adults are suffering from low mood — a biological condition that robs them of feelings of pleasure and happiness.These people start the day feeling bad — any condition ranging from mild dysphoria to intense depression — and many of them experience the remainder of their waking hours in that state as well.
There are others whose mood improves somewhat as the day goes on but still suffer because of the many hours each day spent in heaviness.Then there are those whose condition of chronic unhappiness is the result of overwhelming stress: situations of abuse and neglect wreak havoc with our emotional world.
Finding the Cause
A child who is “never happy,” “always complaining,” or otherwise frequently out of sorts is a candidate for psychological assessment if the words “never” and “always” are accurate descriptors of her state.It’s important to find out the cause of her misery and pursue treatment.
However, if the child is plenty happy when things go her way or anytime except when the answer is no, then she’s just exhibiting personality traits.She may be a strong-minded youngster with a rigid, controlling disposition.Although this isn’t pleasant for parents to deal with, the good news is that — on its own — it isn’t a serious problem.It’s a trait that can be softened with the right Bach Flower Remedies or rewired with the help of specific parenting strategies.
For example, naming the child’s feelings when she gets stuck in a reactive mode can, over time, help ease those feelings and make her less reactive.“I understand you’re unhappy with my answer.That makes sense, because you really want me to say yes.It’s disappointing and frustrating when I say no.”
Now the important thing is to leave it there.The parent has done his or her job after naming feelings.An otherwise normal child is allowed to feel unhappy when things don’t go his way.There’s no need to do somersaults to make the youngster smile again.The smile will eventually come by itself.
Accepting the No
It’s not dangerous for the child to feel disappointed and frustrated.The feeling passes more quickly when it is acknowledged and accepted by parents.Parents, however, are sometimes triggered by their child’s sulk-and-pout.“Why can’t he just accept no for an answer? ”
Well, probably because he’s a child and possibly because he’s wired that way, but in either case, the child can’t help the way he feels.If you sense that your youngster is just putting on a show to manipulate you, be very careful not to be manipulated and very soon he’ll stop putting on the show.
Don’t start negotiating, making deals, or offering bribes in order to cheer him up.Don’t worry that you’re being hard-hearted.You already showed your compassion and caring through identifying and accepting his negative emotions.Showing that you can tolerate these emotions is your next gift of kindness.
Your lack of fear of, or repulsion for, your child’s upset is a powerful tool on its own to help your child become less and less upset over time.And your lack of reactivity means that you aren’t accidentally reinforcing the sulk through giving it unnecessary attention.
So all in all, letting it be (after acknowledging it) is a good way to respond to a child who isn’t happy with the answer you’ve given him.
Let It Be
Interestingly, “letting it be” is a technique that can help adults cope with their own disappointment and frustration, as well.
When things don’t go her way, for example, a grown woman will probably feel unhappy.She can acknowledge her own disappointment and frustration, validate her own feelings, and then just “let them be” until they ease out of her system naturally.Try it yourself one unhappy day.