Last week I passed our local playground, which was swarming with preschoolers and their parents. With a jolt I thought I bet I don't know a single person in there! When your youngest is seven, daily outings to the park are no longer a daily requirement.
Nowadays when I'm out and about I no longer have a long stream of kids in my wake, and moms no longer automatically turn with pleading eyes asking for advice. For all they know I'm a crotchety middle-aged spinster, not a mother of five. That's okay.
But there is one piece of wisdom I always yearn to offer younger mothers, and it is this:
Making your children happy is not the goal of parenting.
I know this sounds heretical, but it's true. The goal of parenting is to make your children capable of finding joy and contentment in their lives, regardless of the circumstances in which they find themselves.
Consider the focus of a parent with each of the outlooks below:
|“I want a happy kid”||“I want a kid capable of joy and peace”|
|I prevent disappointment||I teach ways to handle disappointment|
|I avoid kid meltdowns||I teach my child self control|
|I protect him from all hurts||We explore forgiveness, assertiveness, empathy, and how to rebound|
|I minimize arguments||I model problem-solving skills|
|I accommodate desires||We focus on delayed gratification and the difference between need and desire|
|I want to make my child like me||I want my child to be capable of commitment, sacrifice and love|
|I want to eliminate conflict||I want him to handle conflict well|
I could go on, but you get the picture. The I-just-want-to-have-a-happy-kid trap makes it easy to overlook helping our kids develop basic coping skills they are absolutely going to need. We don't mean to neglect these skills. But in a society that's geared to consumerism and instant gratification, I daresay it's probably necessary to focus intentionally on building them.
My two cents for the day. Your thoughts?