We live in a culture that prides itself on being tough. A constant barrage of “suck it up” and “life’s not fair” permeate the childhood of too many.
When a child falls down, they’re told, “Brush it off! You’re OK!” When a child cries in the store for a candy bar that they can’t have, many say, “Stop crying or I’ll give you a reason to cry.” When a child sobs because his sister got a bigger gift than he did, they might hear, “Suck it up, life’s not fair.”
What do all of these examples have in common? A parent is trying to stop a child from throwing a tantrum. They are trying to instill in them that life is hard so they need to learn the skills to be able to handle that difficulty. Sometimes, they are reacting out of their own fears — a fear that their child will grow up to be entitled or unkind. But what if what you are doing is seriously messing up your kid?
When we tell our child that they are OK, or that they need to stop crying, or that life’s not fair, we are attempting to override what they are feeling and experiencing. Imagine you told someone, “I’m so sad right now because my cat died.” And they replied with, “Oh, you’re OK. You can always get a new cat. It’s not the end of the world.” You wouldn’t feel validated. In this scenario, someone is trying to silver line your situation rather than being understanding and empathetic. When they silver line it, they are dismissing your emotions in that moment.
Let’s take a look at another scenario, but replace the adult with a child. A child falls and begins to cry. “Come on now, you’re alright!”
This is called gaslighting.