• Dr. Bill Walker

Don’t Try To Make Your Kids Happy 100% of the Time: Do This Instead

Common sense says happiness is good and unhappiness is bad. As parents, we want what’s good for our children – always. Following this logic, parents should always see to it that our kids are happy – 100% of the time. Wrong.

This is a mindset that sounds good on the surface, but is harmful at its core. A number of problems arise for parents who buy into the, ‘I must make sure my child is always happy and never unhappy’ belief.

Here Are 3 Problems With This Mindset:

1. Trying To Ensure Your Child Is Always Happy Puts You in a No-Win Situation

As parents, we cannot control the many outside events that affect our children. You cannot control how your child’s friends treat them on a day-today basis. You cannot control relationship breakups, the middle-school drama of the day, a poor test score, and the many other daily events that occur in your child’s life.

Since your control is limited you end up in an impossible situation. Because you cannot control all, or even, most, of the events in your child’s life (especially once your kids enter school), every time your child feels unhappy, it will somehow be your fault.

You have conditioned your child to depend on you for their constant happiness. When unhappiness occurs it is only natural they will turn to you to make it go away.

When you cannot, not only will your children feel disappointed but you will likely feel guilty and depressed due to your failure.

2. Trying To Ensure Your Child Is Always Happy Denies Them the Opportunity to Learn To Create Their OWN Happiness.

Maybe the happiness you want for them is not the happiness they want. As parents, we can be guilty of imposing our own desires onto our children. We think what makes us happy should make our kids happy. But our children have their own identity, preferences, likes and dislikes that influence their happiness.

Your child is not a mini-me of you. Yes, they may look like you and share mannerisms with you, but they have been created uniquely in the image of God. Their happiness will be determined by who they are, and have been created to be.

3. Trying To Ensure Your Child Is Always Happy Denies Them the Opportunity to Learn How To Deal With Disappointment and Setbacks.

Life happens, and unhappiness is part of life. It is impossible to prevent unhappy events and situations from occurring in your child’s life. There is truth in the old saying: “What Doesn’t Kill Us Makes Us Stronger.”

For years a saying hung in my office that said:

A Smooth Sea Never Made a Skillful Sailor.’

Navigating the ups and downs of this life takes personal skills like negotiation, stress management, and problem-solving. It is the difficult, and often unpleasant, struggles of life that give birth to the development of these skills.

If a child is never allowed to face hardship they have no reason to develop the life skills that result in the mental and emotional toughness to be a successful adult.

Your Child’s Happiness:

--- 5 Steps To Finding a Healthy Parental Balance

1. Change Your Belief That It Is Your Job to Ensure Your Child Is Always Happy

The key word is ALWAYS. Don’t go to the other extreme. Parents who take a passive approach to their child’s emotional health can do as much harm to their children as over-responsible parents.

Yes – finding the balance can be hard! Don’t give up – keep working to find it.

2. As Your Child Gets Older Allow Them To Take More Responsibility For Their Happiness

The ideas in this article are less relevant to preschoolers and very relevant to high-schoolers. The older your child the better equipped they should be, mentally, emotionally and spiritually, to deal with life’s disappointments.

You will need to be more involved in your preschoolers happiness – just not to the degree where you make them totally dependent on you

3. Don’t Impose Your Idea of Happiness On Your Child

Your child will naturally gravitate to those things that bring them happiness. These ‘things’ include anything from certain friends to activities to music. Your job as a parent is to guide them away from harmful desires and preferences, but allow them room to explore their interests.

Don’t be offended if your child does not like the same music, foods or activities as you do. They are their own person, just as you are your own person. Each of us is unique – that is what makes us - us!

4. When Your Child Is Experiencing Unhappiness – Be There For Them

Make supportive comments like: “Lillie, you seem really down today. Is there anything I can do to help? Remember, I love you.” “Ray, I’m sorry you are unhappy right now. IF you would like to talk to me about it I am here to listen. I love you.”

First, acknowledge their emotional state. Then, let them know you are willing to do what you can to help.

5. WARNING!! NEVER Ignore Ongoing Depression In Your Child

If unhappiness turns into depression you must become MORE involved in the situation – regardless of your child’s age. If your child refuses to talk to you, tell them you are very concerned and you are going to have to take an active role in helping them deal with this situation – whether they want you to or not.

Good resources for you to consult include their school counselor, their pediatrician or the following numbers:

  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK

  • Youth Mental Health Line: 1-888-568-1112

  • Child-Help USA: 1-800-422-4453 (24 hour toll free) (help with parenting stress)


Christianly Speaking:

Mature Christians understand the difference between earthly happiness and spiritual joy. Earthly happiness is based on earthly circumstances.

Spiritual JOY is Not dependent on our earthly circumstances but based on our relationship with God and the assurance of His many promises to us.

Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33, NKJV)

True and lasting happiness is only found in a relationship with God and Christ.

Without any doubt the best thing parents can do is prepare their children for eternity.

If you are not a follower of God then you and your children are left to navigate this life on your own. I cannot think of a more difficult place to be than on your own to face the trials of life.

God is waiting to help you.



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