The Significance of a Smile on the Life of a Child

Posted by: Asa Don Brown on June 13, 2011 1:11 pm

What is a smile? A smile is a nonverbal expression of emotion. Smiling can indicate a host of emotions including joy, happiness, sorrow, sadness, cheerfulness, tearfulness, and lightheartedness.   Smiling can be accompanied by other nonverbal communication including body language, posture, facial expressions, eye contact, physical artifacts (clothing or apparel), and voice and speech inflections.

Harwood (2006) discussed how the very gesture of a smile within the first developmental years has a significant role in the development of a child’s ability to empathize and self-regulate his or her own emotions. Therefore, if a child is unable to self-regulate, it is a possibility that the primary caregiver did not show a proper amount of affection. Research seems to indicate that if a child is traumatized during childhood, it is especially important to have such a connection with a primary caregiver.

During my own doctoral research which focused on “The effects of childhood trauma on adult perception and worldview,” it was discovered that a parent’s smile played a significant role in the life of a child.  My research used a number of instruments including the Parental Bonding Inventory, which looked at an adult’s memories associated with the role of their parents on their own childhood.  “The PBI provided clarification that smiles or a lack of smiles are significant in the relationship between parent and child. Twenty-three of the participants recalled receiving smiles from their mothers as children, and 17 of the participants recalled receiving smiles from their fathers as children, whereas only 11 participants recalled that their mothers had not smiled at them during childhood, and 15 recalled that their fathers had not smiled at them during childhood. The significance of a smile arose when considering comforting and reassurance following a traumatic event. Furthermore, it is significant when considering how one’s perceptions of one’s parents frequently are reflected on one’s own feelings of acceptance, self-worth, self-image, and the essence of one’s self-esteem.” (Brown, 2008, p. 84-85)

Smiling is more than merely grinning, simpering, smirking, or beaming from ear-to-ear.  It is a gauge which suggests our state-of-mind or state-of-thought.  However, smiling does not always suggest satisfaction with life or a state-of-happiness.   It can suggest a state of nervousness, uneasiness, and unhappiness.   You have probably encountered someone smiling at a funeral, a sad event, or in a hostile situation.   If so, they were probably displaying a nervous emotion rather than an internal remark of happiness. 

Parents and teachers play a significant role on modeling the smile. “An affectionate and nurturing parent seemed to have the greatest barring on recovery. Although not all parents are physically or emotionally expressive, nor do they outwardly show affection, when empathy was expressed through physical or emotional actions and/or presence, the expression seemed to prove as a protective factor. (Brown, 2008, p. 84-85)

The benefits of smiling are limitless. A smile can reassure another, provide comfort to uncomfortable situations, and display personal self-confidence for all to see. Even forced smiling can change an attitude, a perception and a personal state of being.  Smiling’s benefits outweigh its disadvantageous.   Smiling can lift one’s spirits, and moreover, make a difference in each life you encounter.  

Brown, A. D. (2008) The effects of childhood trauma on adult perception and worldview. Capella University, 152 pages; AAT 3297512, ISBN 978-0-549047057-1 

Harwood, I. (2006). Prevention of insecure disorganized attachment: And maybe the ambivalent and avoidant as well. Self Psychology News, 1(4).




*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

11 comments on “The Significance of a Smile on the Life of a Child”

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  2. Mandy Smith says:

    I think my favourite quote is so reflective of your article post.

    Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. Leo F. Buscaglia

    1. Dear Mandy,

      Thank you for the very lovely quote. It is a positive contribution to this article.

      May this and future articles prove a positive inspiration.

      Warm Regards,

      Dr. Asa Don Brown

  3. Tzenniefer says:

    Wow! “congratulations” Mr. Brown. What a wonderful research on the significance of a smile on a child. This really a very important lessons to parents and teachers. I love it.
    Keep up the good work. God Bless you and your family. Jen.

    1. Dear Jen,

      Thank you for your very warm remarks. While the research focus was on “The effects of childhood trauma on adult perception and worldview,” we were capable of gaining some unique extending information as a result of the research.

      May this and future articles prove a positive inspiration.

      Warm Regards,

      Dr. Asa Don Brown

  4. Tracy says:

    Thank you once again Dr Brown for your inspiring words. It is amazing the strength and power of a simple smile. Your article made me reflect on my own relationship with my daughters. I need to remember that no matter what is going on in my adult life, what is stressing me or causing me anxiety without a smile for my children then that stress is relayed to them. It is my family; my husband and children, that bring the most joy to my life and thus the reason for me to smile. Thank you again for reminding me of the strength of a simple smile.

    1. Dear Tracy,

      I am appreciative of your very warm remarks. A smile can empower and strengthen an individual’s sense of wellbeing. Beyond empowering another, it can influence how we perceive and view the world, which is capable of influencing those in our lives.

      May this and future articles prove a positive inspiration.

      Warm Regards,

      Dr. Asa Don Brown

  5. Brenda Mullin says:

    I love this article on smiles and I am a teacher and I really beleive a smile goes a long way!! Great articile Asa

    1. Dear Brenda

      I am appreciative of your very warm remarks. Smiles can go a long way…

      May this and future articles prove a positive inspiration.

      Warm Regards,

      Dr. Asa Don Brown

  6. Jennifer Van Wiel says:

    This ties in so nicely with all we have learned about how critical modeling is for a child’s development in all areas. It is also a great reminder of how significant something as simple as a smile can be when we bestow that positive gesture to anyone we encounter, regardless of age.

    1. Dear Jennifer

      I am sincerely appreciative of your thoughtful review. Modeling is essential for empowering the child to think and feel good about themselves and their environment.

      May this and future articles prove a positive inspiration.

      Warm Regards,

      Dr. Asa Don Brown

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