If you ask most parents what they want for their children, they will likely say they want their kids to be happy.
At first, this seems to be a perfectly reasonable ambition for our kids. Who wouldn’t want to be happy? But now I’m not so sure. Because at second glance, I think the ‘I want my kids to be happy’ idea has some problems.
It depends on your personal definition of happiness. But I think this focus on happiness could be having some unintended consequences.
If your children grizzle because they have to carry their bag, what do you do? Do you carry their bag for them to make them cheerful? Or do you continue to expect them to carry their own bag so they learn independence, and so they learn they are capable?
If your children scream because they want more screen time, what do you do? Do you let them have more screen time even though you know they’ve had enough for today simply to keep the peace? Or do you stand firm because you want them to be creative, imaginative and exploratory – which only comes from lots of unstructured rather than screen-time play?
If your child has trouble with friendships, do you swoop in and blame the other children and parents, and rescue your child from their wrath so he or she doesn’t feel upset? Or do you talk to your child about being a good friend, and help your child come up with some strategies for getting along well with others (which may involve walking away) to teach social and emotional resilience?
If we’re just focused on short-term happiness or preventing upsets, we can make the wrong choices for our kids. We can indulge them, placate them, and take away opportunities for them to deal with life and learn.
Often the hard yards of parenting – the tough things we need to do – are about creating long-term benefits for our kids. We want our kids to be independent, capable, creative and socially intelligent, so we do the hard yards now. We say ‘No’. We stand firm.
That’s when our kids’ short-term unhappiness leads to long-term benefits.
My focus is not to make my kids happy. My focus to help my kids to be whole. To be absolutely themselves in the best possible way.
I expect them to do stuff for themselves. I limit their screen time. And I help them with their friendships rather than rescuing them from their friendships.
Do you find yourself trying to keep the peace or make your kids happy? Or do you allow them to experience life and all its upsets so they become whole?