Encouraging Self-Centered Focus
Loving parents can unintentionally raise self-centered, unhappy children. How does this happen? One way it happens is when parents continually give their children the message that the children's needs, desires and happiness are superior over anyone else's. These children grow up learning to focus on themselves, not others.
There are many sad stories of parents who bent over backwards to give their children everything they could possibly want only to have their children grow into self-centered adults. These adult children often take their parents for granted and rarely pay attention to their parents needs. Instead they focus on their own needs.
One mom sadly explained how her 30-year-old son had flown home for Christmas. Mom had planned a big gathering and was busy with preparations. Her son left in an angry huff before the Christmas dinner complaining that his mom wasn't spending enough time with him!
She reflected that she had always done so many things for him so that he would be happy. She didn't think of asking for his help preparing dinner and clearly he didn't think of it either. They both ended up being very unhappy that day.
Discovering Authentic Happiness
Although it seems that children who have their basic needs met plus enjoy many extras would certainly be happy, this appears to not be the case.
In a 2013 U.S. sample of youth in grades 9-12
, 17% of students reported that they had seriously considered attempting suicide during the preceding 12 months.
What should we wish for our kids instead of happiness? The answer to this question is discussed in Dr. Aaron Cooper and Eric Keitel's
book titled I Just Want My Kids to Be Happy! Why You Shouldn't Say It, Why You Shouldn't Think It, What You Should Embrace Instead
. They analyze some of the negative effects of putting our kids' happiness first and present healthier alternatives.
The authors reviewed decades of research on happiness. Based on these findings they suggest there are “eight key ingredients that best predict contented, thriving lives”:
- Good mental and physical health
- A life of meaning
- Closeness to others
- Acts of loving kindness
- A sense of gratitude
- A sense of spirituality
- An optimistic outlook
- Gratifying pursuits
Which of these areas do you think your children could benefit from further developing? Pick one to initially focus on and decide on a couple ways to work on it.
Working on any of these areas will improve your kids’ sense of well-being. Ultimately building these skills will help your children achieve a lifetime of authentic happiness.