Expert claims today's parenting is setting our kids up for 'failed relationships'
Being happy is immensely important.
It is important for our mental health, it is important for our physical health and it is important for our families, friendships and marriages.
And when you have children, making sure your child is happy (and healthy) is pretty much the Holy Grail of parenting.
When my children are unhappy, if something hurts them or troubles them or bothers them to the extent it gets in the way of their happiness, then it is my first and most primal concern to make them happy again. Which is the case for all of us, I think.
But the problem, this writer argues, is that often, our path to making our children happy revolves around us getting them something to lure happiness out of them when they are sad, miserable or bored. This could be anything from letting them stay up late, buying them ice-cream, a new toy or, in more extreme cases, a trip to Disneyland.
"Kids," Bill Flanigin argues, "like quickly served, fast-food happiness."
But when entire households revolve around making sure your kids are happy and entertained at all times, well then you have created yourself a bit of a problem, apparently. And not only that, but you have done your children a large disservice when it comes to their future long-term happiness and even relationships.
Because, Flanigin explains, there is a difference between making your child happy and teaching them how to be happy.
If you spend all your time trying to make your child happy, well then you are raising a person whose happiness will always depend on someone else. This is a problem when they are grown and leave the home, of course, when you are no longer around to make them feel happy every day. And it becomes an even bigger problem when they form relationships or get married, and start expecting their spouse keep them happy and content.
"Imagine the strain on a relationship when someone expects their husband or wife to make them happy? On any given day, if a person is not happy, is that somebody else’s fault? It could be. But let’s set aside relationships that have serious flaws like abuse or neglect. Think about the relationships that are not fatally flawed by horrible circumstances like illness, death, or even the loss of a job. Think about the daily, ordinary search for a happy life. Your happiness is up to you."
Because, sure, being in a good relationship, being in love, is supposed to make you feel happy. But it should not be up to another person to deliver that to you. And if this is what you are doing as a parent, well, then it seems we all need to take a long, hard look at ourselves.
According to both Flanigin and many other experts, the very best way to teach your child about happiness, true happiness, is to be happy yourself. Children, much as we give out to them for not paying attention and listening, soak up their surroundings all the time. They copy what we model, both good and bad, happiness and gratitude included.
The moral of it all? We need to get better at modelling the kind of mindful happiness that doesn't come from a new dress from Zara or a fancy brunch (much as they naturally make us happier too).
Want to raise a happy child? Let them seek it out, don't just hand it to them all the time, and let them see you being happy too.