It's a universal truth: Parents want their children to be happy. Many moms and dads believe that the best way to do this is to spare the child from the same pain and struggles that they themselves experienced as children so many years ago. But does this approach come at a cost?
One mother, Shannon, worries that it might. During an episode of "Oprah's Lifeclass" about conscious parenting with clinical psychologist and parenting author Dr. Shefali Tsabary, Shannon explains how she feels when she sees her daughter struggling with something.
"When she's in that moment, all I see is myself when I was her age, thinking the same thing: what I wanted, what I needed and what I didn't get," Shannon says. "I want to be able to give that to her, but I still want her to be strong. So, that's where I don't know what to do."
To begin addressing this, Shefali explains the true source of strength. "The greatest strength comes from inner connectivity, from an embodiment of the whole spirit, in the moment," she tells Shannon.
The instinct to protect the child, therefore, does a disservice to her, because it compartmentalizes the emotions and doesn't allow the child to experience the whole picture -- good or bad. As Shefali puts it, this is "splitting our children off into 'good' emotions that we're OK with," which parents subjectively categorize based on their own experiences.
"If she was happy all the time, you wouldn't say, 'Stop being happy; you're not going to be strong,'" she points out. "You're only talking about emotions that are painful for you. You're only talking about the messy stuff because they're triggering you."
Strength, Shefali concludes, doesn't come from these "good" or "bad" emotions. "It comes from the integration, the embodiment of your inner state," she says. "It's the inner experience."
Understanding this important distinction in parenting can have positive, long-term effects on the child, setting her on a healthier path into adulthood.
"The more she integrates now, the less she will have to be with a therapist later on in life," Shefali says. "So, the more you can allow her to... enter her feelings state [and] fully be present with it, the more she will be alive and engaged in life."