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For the past few months, my children, 2 and 3, have been asking me "Are you happy with me?" Of course, I respond with "I am very happy with you! The most happy!" But they still ask on a daily basis!

I tell them I love them every chance I get. I am happy with them no matter what -- is it normal for the kids to ask for constant validation? Should I be doing something to make them feel secure?

Usually they'll ask the question randomly, but lately I have noticed that they'll ask this when they have done something wrong. i.e. hitting each other, etc. When they do that, I'll usually respond with "Hey! You shouldn't do that, that's not right. It really hurts XYZ." They sense me being upset with what they did and will immediately ask, "Are you happy with me?" I have started to respond with, "Yes, I am happy with you. But I am not happy with what you did."

I wanted to know if other parents have this happening to them too or if there is something I am doing wrong with my parenting which is leading them to wonder if I am happy with them. I don't want my kids thinking I am not happy with them (or do I?). I am very proud of them!

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my 4 yr old daughter is exactly the same :-) and I think @TwoThe answer simply perfect. Be sure they know you love them ;-) –  Leo Apr 9 at 2:17

2 Answers 2

up vote 4 down vote accepted

Kids base every action on whether or not their parents love them. They want their parents to be proud of them and learn and change based on their feedback. They usually don't express it that openly, but then it's nothing to worry about either.

I think your kid is just confusing words here. Maybe it helps to explain the difference between the unconditional love parents feel towards their children, proud and happiness. It also is a good idea to express those feelings very openly to your children so they receive the proper feedback for their actions. They might not understand the words fully, but they will always understand an obvious emotional reaction.

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As some initial background:

My child (14yo girl) has some issues being treated by medication, a psychiatrist, and my love and support, so she is highly-unlikely to be representative of your children. She does, however, ask me in the few instances where she does something incorrect, "Are you mad at me?"

Now, in her case, I take the question as something she wants to avoid: me being mad at her.

In your case, they are asking the opposite -- something they want to have: you being happy with them.

While it may seem a trivial thing to point out, I find it actually wonderful they are seeking a good thing as opposed to avoiding a bad thing -- that's a positive fundamental mindset!

Now on to the heart of your question. They want something. Want it desperately. And they fear they may have denied themselves something they want.

You, too, want something -- well behaved people who integrate well into "society" (i.e. work well with others). You are simply doing what you ought in that regard.

Now, the question comes about, "How can this be balanced?"

I have always been a fan of the truth expressed in terms the other person is most likely to "accept" and that's what I'd advise here.

  1. Give the good first. You are happy with them, the person.
  2. Give the constructive feedback second. They can be happy with themselves if they treat everyone "right".

To that end, I suggest something along these lines:

Happy with you? I love you very much and am so happy that I get to be your parent. We all have things to learn and remember to be better people and I know you want to do that too, right? So let's place nice, be friendly, and then we can all be happy!

(NOTE: I expressly did not use the word "but" in that phrasing b/c it is perceived as a negation of anything prior.)

Now, after such an approach, if you still find they are intriguingly seeking an answer to this question, I would talk to the child outside of a contentious issue in a chatty manner. Then I would point out that they ask that a lot and that because I care would like to know if there is something they are worried about and would like to ask me about.

Doing that will take the issue out of the immediate and open the door for them to communicate with you about whatever (possibly-unrelated) issues they have been considering.

Finally, they simply may not be aware of the fact that they repeat the question (like someone who uses "like" every other word in their speech.) The only way to know is to ask when nothing else is part of the conversation (like that mini-battle with Timmy!)

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