The Risks of Raising a ‘Good’ Child Who Can’t Express Themselves

Here’s how to help your child manage the whole gamut of emotions

✨ Bridget Webber
4 min readFeb 5, 2020
Photo by Thiago Cerqueira on Unsplash

‘Good’ children often don’t learn it’s safe to express negative emotions. Later, they can’t deal with previously hidden feelings. Anger might have been considered unattractive, for instance, but it’s sometimes necessary to get mad. If you don’t learn to convey emotions healthily early in life, you could be in trouble later.

Here’s how you can assist your child in dealing with their emotions, so they can better communicate their needs. First, though, let’s look at why parents’ eagerness to help their children display positive emotions can damage self-expression.

Why parents may not accept the complete spectrum of their child’s emotions

Parents often teach their children to be good, and on the face of it, the idea seems positive. ‘Good,’ though, can mean being compliant and warm all the time, and there’s a real danger their kids won’t learn how to display the full gamut of emotions.

As a mother or father, it’s tempting to encourage your child to express the emotions the world finds acceptable and stifle those people dislike seeing in others.

You want to give your child the best chance of survival and help them meet with success. Encouraging them to smile and be friendly rather than moody and frustrated looks sensible.

Plus, everyone loves a good child. They’re easy to manage and a pleasure to be around, and the alternative isn’t fun. It’s hard to cope with tantrums, rudeness, and other negative behaviors.

Nonetheless, all children must go through stages adults call ‘difficult.’ They aren’t such a pleasure to encounter, yet, they are a necessary part of childhood development. In these stages, children learn how to manage their emotions.

Sensitive children are often encouraged to take on the role of the good child. Naturally, louder siblings are harder to control. When a more amiable brother or sister is on the scene, the calmer child is encouraged to become even more compliant to take the pressure off their already vexed parents.

The parents then reinforce acceptable behaviors, like good manners and a happy countenance, and give the child the impression they can’t cope with negative emotions.

The child understands they are loved more when they are nice and less when they are miserable or angry and that behaving badly damages their parents. They don’t want to hurt them, so they hide their real emotions and act in ways that bring about positive responses.

It’s healthy and necessary for children to learn how to manage their emotions

At first, children might express themselves in extreme ways. But they understand themselves better and see what works socially as they practice. They naturally learn to function using all their feelings to help them navigate the world of other people and forge relationships.

When children are given a strong message that ‘negative’ feelings are wrong, they grow up understanding that they must hide their anger and sadness.

Difficulties with self-expression can devastate relationships, and their future intimate partnerships, friendships, and associations at work are at stake. Repression can also lead to depression, and it makes it hard for people to get their needs met.

They don’t recognize it’s healthy to get angry when someone mistreats them, and they might put up with damaging behavior. They could also develop a sunny outer disposition but feel depressed.

Children who are taught it’s good to be quiet and nice all the time learn certain emotions are off-limits, and they experience guilt and confusion when upset, even if it’s healthy to be so.

They might become withdrawn and find other children’s outbursts of emotion overwhelming: They don’t know how to deal with anyone’s anxiety, let alone their own, and they hide their needs and true feelings.

If you’re a parent, it’s important to avoid the mistake of molding your child into an ideal model of goodness at the expense of showing them it’s all right to be angry, sad, or disappointed, as well as kind and happy.

The benefits of being able to express emotions freely

Children who learn to manage their emotions are better off than those who don’t for several reasons:

•They get to practice negotiating: Expressing their emotions with other children shows them how to meet their needs.

•They discover how to stand up for themselves and not be pushovers.

•They don’t overlook their needs in favor of other people’s wishes. So they recognize their needs are just as significant as anyone else’s and demand respect.

•Healthy self-expression makes adult life easier. It helps individuals manage their careers and relationships. It helps them show others how to treat them with respect too.

Healthy ways to encourage your child to express emotions

•Avoid referring to niceness as virtuous and irritability as wrong.

•Don’t reprimand your child for getting upset or angry.

•Acknowledge and accept your child’s feelings.

•Teach problem-solving and cooperation skills.

•Show them how to be assertive without being aggressive.

•Help them practice strategies to manage their emotions.

•Teach them how to expand their emotional vocabulary.

•Enhance your child’s self-esteem.

•Teach stress management and show them how to relax. Meditation and mindfulness are useful, for example.

•Encourage them to recognize and consider their feelings.

•Be a commendable role model.

There are advantages to raising your child to be good. But not allowing them to be a little bad now and then damages them. Teach them how to manage their emotions in healthy ways now, and you’ll help them create successful relationships later.

Copyright © 2020 Bridget Webber. All rights reserved



✨ Bridget Webber

Freelance writer, avid tea-drinking meditator, and former therapist interested in spiritual growth, compassion, mindfulness, creativity, and psychology.