I often ask the parents I work with what they want for their children. The #1 answer is, “I want them to be happy.” But what is happy and how do kids come to feel that? Sometimes I think it is a knee jerk reaction. We all want to be happy, right? So we definitely want our kids to be happy.
But let’s take a closer look. First, what do we actually mean when we say that we want our kids to be happy? Does it mean we want them to have friends, a job they enjoy, devoted love? I suppose it probably does. However, I have a fear that what parents actually mean – when they talk about happy – is that they don’t want their kids to suffer, feel disappointed, not get picked for the team, not get passed over for the lead role in the show, not fail a driving test, not be hurt in a break up, not get rejected from a first choice college, etc. My fear is that ‘happy’ has translated into providing everything we can for our kids so that seemingly they can achieve even more than their parents because the ‘hard stuff’ has been removed. My fear is that ‘happy’ really means that our kids will show up as a good reflection on us as parents.
Let’s be honest now…. Aren’t we all guilty of either some or a lot of this? Oy!
Second, let’s think about what we do to help ensure that our kids can be happy?
We are all incredibly well intentioned, but sometimes we:
- Unintentionally (but sometimes habitually) compare our kids to other kids and try to point out when they are doing better than others
- Explain away why they may not have been selected or won or achieved the grade they wanted etc. by blaming someone or something else
- Get overly involved trying to right our kids’ hurts at school, in social situations, or any place in the world where they are not being celebrated or treated as we would want them to be. We try to fix the situation.
- Remove the burden of responsibility such as doing chores, getting a job, paying for their own phones, entertainment, car insurance, etc…
We just want them to have fun and enjoy their childhood, we think. Won’t a ‘happier’ childhood lead to a happier adulthood?
The truth is that it doesn’t actually work that way. Fighting our kids’ battles, showing them how they are better than others, eliminating responsibilities actually makes our kids more helpless, insecure and less resilient.
If we are really honest with ourselves, the primary reason parents jump in to fix is because we are uncomfortable with our kids’ being in situations of discomfort.
We fear discomfort. We do not have the resilience to see them disappointed. We do not have the fortitude to insist upon their taking responsibility. We do not have or make the time to help them learn the lessons they most need to learn. We do not know how to help them develop resilience so we do what comes easiest, we try to fix.
If the last 2.5 years of the pandemic has taught us anything, it has taught us that we cannot protect our kids from all hardship; it simply is not within our control. What we have also observed over the course of the last 2.5 years is the fact that mental health issues have spread like a wildfire among our children. More kids than ever are diagnosed and / or are suffering with anxiety, depression, low self esteem, and low levels of confidence.
Our kids do not need us to make their lives easier, our kids need us to learn how to do better at building inner strength and resilience.
In the meantime, if you are seeking to strengthen your own resilience, join us in Curiosity Crusaders, a free membership group that takes time for pausing, reflecting and connecting within as a regular practice. Sign up at www.CuriosityCrusaders.com