Is it a good idea to hide negative emotions from your children? Part #2

This is post #2 addressing the issue of what, when and how a parent (or grandparent) should express an emotion in from of a child.

In my last post I discussed (regarding kids and expressing emotions)..

  • the topic of negative emotions (There are none!)
  • issue #1 (What emotions should a parent express in front of a child?and
  • issue #2 (When should a parent express their emotions in front of a child?

In this post, I discuss issue #3 and sum up the entire question.

Issue 3: How should a parent express their emotions in front of a child?

This is where matching and modeling come in.

As I noted above, unless you are very good at hiding your emotions (which most of us are not), you can deny, try to disguise, or attempt to cover up what you feel to your kids all you want.  Chances are, however, that they will see right through your subterfuge.

This is  potentially harmful for two reasons.

First of all, your credibility is at risk if they sense that you are not being truthful.

Secondly, you risk confusing and misleading the kid about emotions in that you may be saying that the expression of anger is actually sadness or the expression of anxiety is actually anger and so forth.

Imagine that your smoke detector beeps either because it is telling you it needs a battery or you burnt the toast.  You are in a hurry to do something so your kid sees you take the detector down, remove the battery, and put it on the table.  Instead of learning that the detector is a critical lifesaving tool which must be maintained, he learns that you eliminate the annoying messenger (the beep) and move on. Note: This is a real example you see in the news where the house burns down because the smoke detectors were not working.

So, that you need to express your emotions honestly is a given.  Let’s look at how you do this.


The idea here is that we attempt to match what we express, how we express it, and the explanations we give as much as we can  on what the kids can understand and absorb.

There is an old story about a child who goes up to her dad and says: “Daddy, how did I get here?”

The dad grimaces cause he doesn’t want to answer the question and sends her to her mom.

Mom doesn’t want to let dad avoid his responsibility and directs the child back to dad.

Dad takes a deep breath, swallows hard, and tells the whole reproduction story from soup to nuts.

The child listens politely and, when dad is done, innocently says, “Oh, now I remember, we flew on an airplane.”

The lesson here is that you have to match your explanations to the age and intellectual abilities of the child.

One of the respondents (Ali) in the Quora feed noted that she validates her emotions by expessing them. And, if she views her emotional expression as problematic for her kids, she apologizes for her outburst, explains the basis for her actions and provides a future focus on how to behave differently.

This is a good answer to the extent that you match your explanation to the age and intellectual abilities of the child.

The bottom line here is that you want to educate your children as to…

  1. what emotions are,
  2. the purpose they serve and
  3. the importance of learning to master their emotions as tools.

More on this below.


The concept behind modeling is that kids (and adults) learn (and draw conclusions from) what they see others do.

The mantra of my parents was “Do as I say not as I do”.

While this may sound promising, it never works.

First of all, as I noted above, you may risk your credibility if there is a discrepancy between your words and your actions.  As an example. If you are a smoker and tell your kids not to use drugs.

Secondly, your kids will “repeat” in their actions what they see you doing regardless of what you say.

So, think through what you model.

Oh, by the way, they will also model what you don’t show if they know you are, for example, angry, but say “I’m not angry, I’m just tired.” So, think about what you are “communicating” to your kids.

Not only do you want to think about what you are “communicating to your kids” but you also want to consider the three issues you want your kids to learn about their emotions:

  1. what emotions are,
  2. the purpose they serve and
  3. the importance of learning to master their emotions as tools.

I realize that this is a steep ask because most people do not know anything about 1, 2,and 3.

So, if you are reading this and you have kids, I strongly recommend that you click on over to my blog, click on the INDEX tab and educate yourself so that you can teach your kids about their emotions.

I have over 200 posts on my blog and the Index tab lists all my posts by Category and Title. You can access any specific post by clicking on the title you want.

The sole reason I maintain the blog is so that you can educate yourself about emotions. It is free and does not require a login.

Raising kids is always a challenge.

Keep in mind that you, as a parent, will make mistakes. But, second chances (and even third chances) are always available.

And, the process is always worth the effort.