If you are a really good parent, you might want to think again about how to make your child really happy. Most parents nowadays regard parenting as providing them with love, the latest toys and protecting them from unpleasant experiences. That will make them feel happy and they should always be happy, right? Wrong!
Real life has a fair share of nasty shocks, failures and unhappiness for most of us. If we are taught how to deal with these from an early age, it really is the best way to grow up as confident, happy and well balanced adults. If parents rush in to provide protection, advice and the latest toys, then discomfort, disappointment and setbacks will never be talked about. Here are 4 reasons why you shouldn’t tell your kids to be always happy and why you shouldn’t rush in to fix things and minimize suffering.
1. Buying them a new toy will not teach them about disappointment
Children will have to come to terms early on with disappointment when their favorite toy gets broken. Those parents who offer to buy the kid a new toy are making a mistake. The message the child is getting is that the feelings of sadness, frustration and disappointment are not on the agenda. They are brushed under the carpet or thrown out with the broken toy. Worse still, they never get to talk about those feelings with their parents and when they go though adolescence and adulthood, they will be not be able to deal with them.
The worst case scenario is where parents buy the child a new toy because it makes them feel less guilty about the lack of time they can dedicate to their kids.
“Parents are driven so much by guilt, especially working parents and single parents. It’s amazing.” – Tom Limbert, Head Teacher of Stanford University’s Bing Nursery School of Child Development Research and Training
Savvy parents will talk about what happened to the toy. It may just have worn out or it may have been handled roughly by the child. Empathize with the child and talk about how things go wrong and we are sometimes disappointed and sad and say that these things happen. You could also talk about how much it costs and whether the child, if they are old enough, could start earning enough doing extra chores to help buy a new one. Teaching them the value of money and saving will help to make them autonomous.
2. Helicopter parenting does more harm than good in the long term
Parents rush in to intervene when there is a problem at school or when Johnny does get selected for the baseball team. That will keep the kids happy and serene. But the parents will not always be around, will they? Studies show that college students who had these overprotective parents were the ones who were suffering more from depression and were generally less satisfied with life in general. Thanks Mom and Dad!
Parents who take a more relaxed approach and allow their kids to become more competent, reliable and well-balanced are doing a much better job at raising their kids. They allow them to try to get to grips with problem-solving and to deal with setbacks. They talk to them about how they are feeling and ways they can avoid similar things happening. It is just helping to learn to grow up in the real world. Chris Meno, a psychologist at Indiana University, has warned that helicopter parenting leads to depression and anxiety and they also have a tougher time in finding jobs after graduation.
3. How are you teaching your kids to be empowered?
You know how kids always feel that they are entitled to everything they want and parents often feel that they should give in, simply because maybe they themselves had a deprived childhood. But the latest smartphone, the fastest game and trendy clothes are not going to lead to happiness. They may momentarily give pleasure and gratification but this sense of entitlement is dangerous.
If you hear your kids say that they want things now or they do not want to have to clean up their room or they expect you to fix their problems, then you have a problem with entitlement.
Parents need to instill the ideas that kids have to work for something they want and that money, success and even a job will only come after hard work and study. Teaching them how to learn from failure will also help. These are the ways to lead to empowerment because this is what will really make them happy.
4. Teach your child about how to get and stay connected
“A connected childhood is the key to happiness.”- Dr. Edward Hallowell, child psychiatrist
Parents want their children to be happy, successful and fulfilled. The best way to do that is to show them how to stay connected. Start with yourself by showing them that they are loved, wanted and understood. Help spread that sense of being connected with siblings, relatives, friends and neighbors. Once they have this sense of being loved, they are better protected against the slings and arrows that fortune will throw at them. They will be able to fight off emotional problems of depression and risky behavior such as self-harming. When 90,000 teens were asked what they desired most, they stated that it was this sense of feeling connected.
Teach your child to form loving connections. From a very early age, hold him or her often, play, talk, read, sing and laugh together. As they grow help them to form loving connections through friendship and other social channels. Texting and Instagram do not count!
If you do not believe me, ask Christine Carter who is Director of Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center. She will tell you that 50 years of research have shown that social connections are at the top of the list for helping to create happiness.
The next time you buy your children a new gadget, ask yourself if they are getting enough of your time, affection and guidance. They say that children thrive when you give them half as many presents and twice as much of your presence.
Featured photo credit: Cute.Sweet.Smile/Muhammad Taslim Razin via flickr.com