“When I’m sad, help me be happy.”

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Image by esthar via Flickr

I was at a Playcentre up in Auckland on Saturday for a Course 5 workshop (because, you know, I’m not busy enough. Insert sarcasm emoticon here.)

They had an interesting poster up on the wall, that, on initial read, I thought was fantastic.

Its title was “Happy Place Playcentre”

and underneath several lines told adults what to do with their children. Among them things like:

  • “Listen to me.”
  • “Play with me.”
  • “Read me stories.”
  • “Ask open-ended questions.”
  • “Call me by my name.”
  • “Ask before you touch me.”

That kind of thing. Good stuff about respecting the child as a person and a learner.

But then I got to this line: “When I’m sad, help me be happy.”

And I stopped. What? I re-read the line, and yes, it did indeed say what I thought it said.

I can hear some of you thinking “what’s the problem? I want my children to be happy!”

Absolutely. I want my children to be happy, too.  But there are legitimate times to be sad.  And trying to make someone happy when they are legitimately sad is, I think, disrespectful.

I would have written something like:

“When I am sad, acknowledge my emotions and help me understand the emotion.”


“When I am sad, ask me if I’d like a cuddle.”


“When I am sad, ask me if I’d like to tell you about it.”

Or anything else along that line which allows the child to own the emotion, and acknowledges that people sometimes feel sad, and it’s okay.

Because if they think it’s not okay to be sad (i.e., must be made happy ASAP!!) then they will spend a lot of time hiding their emotions and repressing things which cause trouble when they’re bottled up.

If the reason they’re sad is trivial, then clearly it would be a great opportunity to let them own the problem and see if they can problem-solve their way out of it, with help. (Going back to those open-ended questions!!)

How would you re-word that statement?


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About Broot

Thoughts about learning and life that are lost in a sea of blogs.

18 responses to ““When I’m sad, help me be happy.””

  1. Dianna Graveman says :

    I absolutely agree with your assessment. Nobody is happy all the time, and suggesting to children otherwise sets them up with unrealistic expectations of themselves and of others. Well said!

  2. susan says :

    i think that since playcentre age kids are still in the ‘feel the emotion’ stage of life, we can assume that it’s going to be a short lived thing. my experience is that once a kid has got a big person’s attention when they are upset/sad/unhappy that is often enough. they just want to know that their big person knows what’s going on for them – most times kids thought processes haven’t even got to ‘so help me through it!’. They are more concerned with acknowledgement than distraction or solution.
    i agree that make me happy is probably not the right words, although it probably came from the idea of making a kid ‘feel better’.
    how about ‘when i am sad, acknowledge my hurt’

  3. Broot says :

    I completely agree with your first statement. And I love your rewrite. Thanks! 🙂

  4. Jenn @ You know...that Blog? says :

    You’re so right. I get that we want our kids to be happy, but being sad sometimes is normal, and healthy.

    So scary about the earthquake – glad you’re not directly affected, but you must be nervous just the same. Mother Earth is NOT a happy camper these days. Hope everyone you are worried about is ok… *hugs*

  5. saretta says :

    Good observation. I might say “when I’m sad, support me with your love.”
    Visiting from SITS!

  6. Blond Duck says :

    But kids don’t know how to express their emotions sometimes…they just know they want you to fix it! 🙂

    • Broot says :

      Yes, and the best way to fix it is usually to acknowledge they’re sad and give them a cuddle. Most of the time, that fixes it!

  7. solodialogue says :

    I like what you have to say because you actually nailed my relationship with my dad. He always brushed off whatever I was feeling sad about and told me to smile because I looked “sour” instead of asking me why and helping me through it. This did lead to hiding feelings and that was not healthy. You are so observant and Playcentre is sooo lucky to have you there!! You go girl!! Get them to change it! 🙂

  8. Sharm's Outlet says :

    Hi I am visiting from SITS, I like this post, and I do agree with you, yes when children are sad they do expect us to fix them but that is the window of opportunity to help them understand and guide them in order to face the future with realistic answers. They LOVE it and will always look up to you…

  9. Broot says :

    Exactly. Thank you!

  10. Dr. Julia Becker says :

    I think that is an excellent point on the sign! Getting children to acknowledge and talk about what they are feeling and experiencing is very important.

Trackbacks / Pingbacks

  1. Speaking of being sad… | Craving a Little Perspective - June 15, 2011
  2. Emotions are High | Ewokmama - June 17, 2011

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