This is the third in my series of mistake we as parents can avoid. Today I am writing about prioritizing our children's happiness. Wanting our children to be happy sounds like such a great thing, but it is fraught with danger. Happiness is something we all want, but it is not achieved by focusing on being happy. Instead it is a byproduct of doing what is right and adding value to the lives of others. It seems very strange, but happiness is one thing that is not achieved by focusing on it. Instead, focusing on our children's happiness only serves to make them more self-centered and dissatisfied with life.
So on what can we focus to help our children be happy as a byproduct? Dr. Elmore suggests our children need to hear five things from us.
Watch. They need to see an adult who has direction and discipline in his or her life. They need to see someone who is not self-centered, someone who invests in other people.
Practice. Children have plenty of amusements that offer pleasure, but they need help practicing something until they are good at it, choosing something important and working on it until they master it.
No. They need a mentor, not a buddy. They have lots of buddies who will enjoy the moment with them, but only you are the parents who will watch out for their future by keeping them on a good moral and emotional track right now.
Wait. Most children are not naturals at delayed gratification; they need our help. Waiting for things will help them to more appreciate those things.
Serve. As a culture we are beginning to wake up to the need to reach out and do something larger than ourselves. High schools and colleges are beginning to require community service. It's one of the reasons our students take turns visiting Grace Care Center to sing to the residents. Working to build something outside ourselves and larger than ourselves gives a sense of satisfaction that immediate gratification can never accomplish.
I hope these practical suggestions will be helpful to all of us in our roles with our children.
Blessings on your parenting,
Tim Miesner, Principal