Can you make anyone happy?
Last week, we asked if doing too much for your kids left you with a bitter taste in your mouth. This week, we are talking about trying to make kids happy. At Parenting Power, we are starting to wonder whether the work being done by parents to make their kids happy is an attempt to make themselves happy.
If this is the case, then parents might actually be failing on two counts; it is impossible for us to make anyone else happy. If a parent’s happiness is only dependent on that impossible result, it too may be impossible.
Can you make anyone happy?
An ancient story is told of a wise old cat sitting on a porch step watching a kitten chase its tail around and around and around. The old cat asked,
“Young kitten, why do you chase your tail?”
The kitten replied,
“Old Cat, I was taught that happiness lives in my tail. I keep chasing it because one day, I know that I will catch it and when I do, I will finally find happiness. Why is it that you sit there on the step? Do you not wish to find happiness?”
The Old Cat purred contentedly and shared,
“Young Kitten, I have learned over time that, no matter where I go or where I sit, my tail is always with me. Happiness is with me already – I no longer need to chase after it as if it wasn’t here.”
The secret to our children’s happiness lies within them. They get to choose it. When things are tough for them, they gain happiness by getting through the tricky situations and feeling good about surviving (resilience). Our happiness is also not dependent on someone else, but can be found in our own attitudes to what we encounter.
So how do we change this?
Often times, parents go out of their way to make their kids feel better about an impending, unpleasant situation. Whether it is getting a needle, writing a test, going to an audition/sports team evaluation or visiting the dentist, parents often focus so much on the fact that it ‘won’t be so bad’ that the kids know that something is up! They start to worry about it even more.
In a recent article in the Globe and Mail, Professor of clinical psychology at Georgia State University, Lindsey Cohen says,
“There is research to show that parental behaviours affect children’s distress. There is some evidence suggesting that more extensive parental reassurance is actually correlated with more prolonged distress.”
As parents, it is our job to be honest with our kids about the tough stuff ahead of them. Needles will hurt (for a short time), it is normal to be nervous about an audition and have doubts. Rather than telling our kids not to feel unhappy feelings, we can teach them strategies they can use to manage these very normal and useful feelings
This week, ask yourself these questions:
Are you trying to make your kids happy by stopping them from feeling real feelings?
Are you worrying so much about what they might be worried about that you are adding to their stress?
Is your happiness based solely on your child’s happiness? That is a lot of pressure for one child to handle.
How will you teach your child to cope with the difficult things they will face throughout their life?
If you are curious about what strategies you can share with your kids, we are always here to answer your questions and give you real life parenting tools.