I never heard the saying, “You get what you get … don’t get upset” until I had little kids of my own. In fact, I once got into a passionate discussion over this phrase with some moms over organic salad in Santa Monica. A preschool teacher said it to Eli (a 3-year-old) and Eli’s mom was REALLY annoyed. Eli’s mom, Jill, said, “I don’t like the idea of anyone telling my son what he can or cannot feel”. I totally agreed with her, but as we walked away from that dinner, I realized that I didn’t know what to do about it or how to fix it. Maybe we could create a new phrase – a better motto – that grown-ups could use to teach their children that they can’t always have everything they want when they want it. AND, that it’s ok to feel because of it.
Recently I have been studying spiritual psychology with Rabbi Mordecai Finley. He says when a person get angry, (let’s call him Eli) what’s really happening is that Eli is not getting his needs met. Finley recommends that Eli would understand more about his feelings if he could ask himself, “Why am I angry?”. Now you are probably thinking, “How can Eli process this? He is only 3!”. That is where the parents come in.
As parents, maybe if we explained to our children that anger/sadness/frustration do not come from the world being “unfair” but from the natural order of things, kids might understand that their feelings are valid. Not getting one’s needs met are a part of life. Maybe then, Eli might take his anger and translate it into sadness. Maybe then, Eli could experience the feeling of being “upset” and learn from it. He could grow into a more thoughtful person and use his emotions to teach himself about himself. He could learn that sweeping his feelings under the rug with the old “Don’t get upset” doesn’t work. All it does is create more frustration and a kind of “I’m bad… it’s wrong of me to have feelings” attitude. Shame.
After all, don’t we want to raise our kids to know themselves…first and foremost?
So – how about, “You get what you get, you don’t always get your needs met”
as a starting place for understanding disappointment? It’s not quite as succinct, but hey…it rhymes! And, most importantly, it works.