I finally got around to watching Jennifer Senior's excellent TED Talk last night, and I recommend it. In it, she dissects some of the anxiety around parenting today, how children have gone from economic resources to, in some ways, more work for parents, and how we lack a script for family life with two working parents. Senior recognizes that there are no easy solutions, but that we might benefit from redefining what most parents, myself included, say we want most for our children.
We say we want our children to be happy. Right?
I've said it a million times. Probably even in the same paragraph as a scold or admonishment, something that would decidedly make my child unhappy. Happiness, Senior says, is too elusive of a goal, as it is the byproduct of other things. You can't just force a kid to be happy. We've all been there: you think you're doing exactly the right thing to make your child happy, and they've thrown an epic tantrum in the middle of it all. Think of all the meltdowns kids have at Disney World, the supposed happiest place on Earth.
So instead? "Focus on making productive kids
and moral kids,
and to simply hope that happiness will come to them
by virtue of the good that they do
and their accomplishments
and the love that they feel from us," she says.
I don't believe that children should see themselves as the center of the universe, even their parent's universe. It's hard work disciplining, and at times disappointing children. But I think it's harder work down the line not to have done it. And it seems that children who lack that discipline, and never suffer from disappointment, don't usually end up that happy anyway.