The uncomfortable truth behind the "happy" child
Updated: Mar 17
Sometimes parents who abandon their children at night then point to their "happy" child in the daytime.
There is a survival mechanism called the "fawn" response. Where the child is extremely stressed and can't get its needs met by authentically sharing its needs with the parent, so instead it changes itself to adapt and survive by meeting the parents needs instead.
This "happy" child, often has their mental health fall apart in adolescence and adulthood.
A "happy" child, could be a child doing what they need to do to survive and attempt to maximise whatever care they can get from parents. "freeze" response is also a chosen strategy of some, where they just shutdown their needs.
A child will adapt in a way it needs to survive in the short term - you only really know the outcome in their teenage and adult mental health outcomes.
Most mammals can adapt to look happy and perform a role on command, if that's the only way they'll get their needs met. Circus animals comes to mind... animals can perform as a survival strategy. Is that ideal for their proper development? No.
Adults need to stop trying to justify neglecting children at night, simply because the child has been able to adapt to a survival strategy that makes you feel good in the short term.
The long term mental outcomes of children is more important than short term convenience, compliance and obedience.
A child that appears really easygoing, subdued, quiet, compliant or happy the majority of the time is a red flag.
Children are designed to test boundaries and challenge adults when they feel safe to do so. It's a form of learning.
A child expressing all their emotions with an adult is a child that feels safe with that adult.
You can have compliance, convenience & control.. while severely risking your child's future mental health outcomes...
Or you can do the hard and right thing, by respecting, responding to and connecting with your child in a way that makes them feel safe to express all of themselves with you, be authentic with you, and therefore will open up to getting co-regulation from you.
Self-regulation is formed through co-regulation with a calm adult: not through abandonment.
Co-regulation is only possible when a baby or child feels that they can signal/communicate/cry about their needs, and has learned that a calm, caring adult will respond.
The easy road gets hard, the hard road gets easy...
Sadly, it's for the child that the road becomes hardest in the longterm when their parent took the easy short-term gratification road of ignoring or abandoning their cries.
It's the infants and children that have to live with the sacrificed brain architecture that was formed while their parent refused to adequately respond and co-regulate them calmly so they could develop well into adulthood.
It's the infants and children that suffer.
While the parent will often take no responsibility and say "I don't know what happened, they were such a happy child" - red flag!!
Or, they will attribute their addiction issues or mental health issues to so