Are You Responsible for Your Child's Happiness?

April Peveteaux

responsible for child's happinessParents all over the world have the same mantra: I just want my kids to be happy.

We say it in a breezy way, as if we could just accomplish this one thing, we don't care about grades, sexual orientation, where they live (even if it's across the world), or anything else. We only want them to be happy.

Of course, as adults, we all know that happiness can be much more elusive than getting a perfect GPA. When our kids aren't happy, our hearts break in two.

But Dr. Matthew B. James says we have to give up on trying to make our kids happy -- because it's counterproductive.

"I think we all experience this in our lives. We spend all this time miserably trying to make other people happy, something we obviously can't do. We do it because we want to see other people happy all around us," according to Dr. James. "But the paradox is, the harder we try, the more miserable we get. Others pick up on these negative feelings and the process just keeps spiraling down."

While I agree with this in my adult relationships, how do you put this into practice with the kids? Our generation of parents aren't exactly known for being hands-off, ya know? Watching my child struggle will probably put me in bed for days, although -- as we all know -- that's really not an option.

So letting go is going to be tough, and trusting my kids to handle these heavy emotions -- even tougher.

Dr. James says he spoke with his 11-year-old to explain the difficulty of making other people happy, and how it drags everyone down. He says his 11-year-old responded positively and got this idea. Which makes me stop and think that perhaps we underestimate our big kids.

How much control do you think you have over your child's happiness?


Image via Pink Sherbet Photography/Flickr

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