On a scale of 1 to 10, how happy would you say your kid is? Now, ask your child to rate his own happiness using the same scale. Do the answers match?
Hopefully they did, because according to a recent study, parents are having a hard time assessing how happy their kids actually are. They found that parents of children ages 10 to 11 overestimated and parents of teens ages 15 to 16 underestimated.
The study, published in the Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, gathered data from 357 parent-child pairs. They asked the children to assess their own level of happiness, and then asked the parents to rate their children’s as well as their own.
Researchers found that the parents’ ratings for their children were similar to the ratings they gave themselves. Are parents assuming that their children are as happy as they are? Researchers are saying yes, and they’re calling it an “egocentric bias.” Parents are relying on their own feelings to assess their children’s feelings.
“Being unable to read children’s happiness appropriately may increase misunderstanding between parents and children/adolescents, which has been shown to have negative consequences for parent–child relationships,” said researcher Dr. Belen Lopez-Perez in a press release. “Furthermore, parents might not be able to provide the appropriate emotional support or attend to their children’s needs accurately,” she added.
This isn’t new news to experts however. It’s not unusual for parents to misjudge their kids’ feelings, during their preteen and teen years, psychotherapist Fran Walfish told Yahoo Parenting. “Parents might judge their 10- and 11-year-olds to be happier than they really are because at this age, kids are in a latency stage, and their emotions have gone underground.” For parents of 15- and 16-year olds, it could be a case of misreading teen rebellion as unhappiness, said Walfish. All this taken into consideration, what can we do to keep our family members happy? Tip #1 Allow them to be themselves. “When a child is in a nurturing environment and is allowed to express herself and her feelings, then this contributes to a happy well-being,” Bella A. Villarin, guidance counselor at the Ateneo de Manila High School told Smart Parenting. Tip#2Be happy too. Happiness is contagious and children are the best imitators. Don’t come home from work day in and day out grumpy and unapproachable and still expect your children to be excited to see you. Be eager to come home to your loving family and watch as the hugs and kisses start pouring in. “Children model according to what they see. They learn from parents how problems are tackled, decisions are made and values are put to use. How you handle your life will definitely reflect on your children,” said Villarin.