Do you care whether you are raising happy children?
Yes, you read me right. My children’s happiness don’t matter in the parenting choices I make. Really they don’t.
I think we parents shouldn’t prize our children’s happiness as a parenting goal, and it shouldn’t even be a reflection or measure of our parenting efforts.
#1. Because life isn’t about the pursuit of happiness.
#2. Because happiness is relative and fleeting.
#3. Because the things that make one happy may not be the things that are beneficial for us, or even moral or right.
#4. Because often, it can be a tough battle fighting for the things worth fighting and living for.
#5. Because happiness all too often focuses on the self, breeding an egocentric worldview.
Eh, Sarah, aren’t your children very poor thing then to have a Mummy who doesn’t believe in their happiness?
Well, I believe that raising my children to have an attitude of contentment and thankfulness IN SPITE OF circumstances not going their way is far better than focusing on their happiness.
And well, maybe, I just have one of the rare or ONLY 4-year-old in the world who actually says “I’m not happy” when I mete out the consequences for his misbehaviours.
Yes, he really does. He stands/sits in his Thinking Corner, crosses his arms, pouts and shouts, “I’M NOT HAPPEEEE!!! I DON’T WANT MUMMY!!! ”
How should I respond to that?
If I’m having a parent tantrum, I would go, “Fine! Scream all you want. Another 10 minutes out for you!”
But most times, I try instead to say, as calmly as possible ,”Even if you don’t want me, I still want you. I love you and that is why I have to discipline you, and help you learn what is right. Even if you are not happy.”
My children’s happiness , as I have learnt, doesn’t equate to acceptable or right behaviour.
They are happy to sit in front of the TV/ iPad for the entire day in their PJs, eating junk food.
They are happy taking out all my toilet rolls and mummifying my furniture and floor.
They are happy climibing up the window grilles of my apartment.
They are happy to play with all their toys and not need to help with packing up.
They are happy to get what they want, all the time.
Who’s going to care if they are hapy when they are out of the family?
An older mother, in her 50s and a teacher, made this significant remark to me:
“In our generation, we were concerned as parents about how to raise our children to be independent.
It seems that the present generation of parents are more concerned about raising children to be happy.”
As I think about her comment, I do think it is true.
We worry about which school to send our children to, and if it will be the best place for our children based on whether they will be happy.
We make decisions about what activities our children should do based on whether they enjoyed themselves during the trial classes.
I’m not saying we don’t have to ensure the emotional well-being of our children. But surely, the emotional welfare of our children goes beyond their mere happiness?