GUEST BLOG POST: What Do I Really Want for My Children? by Dr. Ned Hallowell
On some days you might quickly reply, “I just want them to clean up their rooms, do their homework, and obey me when I speak.” On other days, when you are caught up in the pressures your children are feeling at school, you might desperately reply, “I just want my children to get high SAT scores and be admitted to Prestige College.”
But if you linger over the question, your reply will almost certainly include one particular word: the simple, even silly-seeming word happy. Most of us parents just want our children to be happy, now and forever. Oh, sure, we also want them to be good people; we want them to contribute to the world; we want them to care for others and lead responsible lives.But deep down, most of us, more than anything else, want our children to be happy.
If we take certain steps, we can actually make it happen. Recent research has proved that parents and teachers can greatly increase the chances that their children and students will grow up to be happy, responsible adults by instilling certain qualities that might not seem of paramount importance but in fact are—inner qualities such as optimism, playfulness, a can-do attitude, and connectedness (the feeling of being a part of something larger than yourself). While traditional advice urges parents to instill discipline and a strong work ethic in their children, that advice can backﬁre when put into practice. The child may resist or do precisely the opposite of what is asked or even comply, but joylessly. That joylessness can last a whole life long.
We need a more reliable route to lifelong joy than can be provided by lectures on discipline or rewards for high grades and hard work.Of course, discipline and hard work matter, as do grades and civil behavior. But how you reach those goals is key. The engine of a happy life runs better on the power of connection and play than on the power of fear and guilt.
© Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved. EXCERPTED FROM THE CHILDHOOD ROOTS OF ADULT HAPPINESS
Strong parenting is also a theme about which Dr. Ned Hallowell is passionate. He speaks frequently on the topic and his book, The Childhood Roots of Adult Happiness: Five Steps to help Kids Create and Sustain Lifelong Joy (Ballantine, 2002), provides parents with concrete detail about how to create the kind of a childhood that will most likely lead to a happy and satisfying adulthood. The book is based on extensive research and empirical data, but it is written in a conversational, anecdotal tone. The book is a warm and lively celebration of childhood, as well as a guide to creating the kind of childhood that children really need.