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The Happiness You Want for Your Child May Not Be Real Happiness

At the slightest hint of unhappiness from a child, parents move to fix it — it’s a mental act, and it’s natural, human, and typical.

Why would we rather watch our kids suffer when we can put a smile on their faces? Ask most parents what they desire for their children, they will say, “I want my kids to be happy.” While our intention is valid, it sometimes becomes our obsession and influences how we interact with them and every decision we make to see them happy.

We tell them what we think and feel will make them happy, and give them every reason to believe us. We compel and often times “force” them to spend 20 or so years in school to get what we thought will make them happy. However, at this period, our children who we are still in talking terms will probably signal to us that the tank we stored the water in to make them happy had a leak — and perhaps a large one, to say the least. And if the “luck goddess” smiled on us, they’re among the 10 percenters of Americans who are happy with life and their career paths. If not, they’re one of the 90 percenters; you know their state, after all.

At this moment, we should ask: “What are we likely doing wrong?”

Take it or leave it, we should have rather done or be doing something easier and simpler than you think. Five basic life principles are all there are to keep us way ahead of the pack to bringing “true” happiness to our little ones. And what are they?

  1. No two persons are mutually inclusive, neither is your child. Our dreams, configurations, and tastes differs as do the North and South. There’s a high chance that your little one doesn’t “need” what you think is happiness.
  2. You don’t get to choose/decide who your child is. No two humans have similar definitions.
  3. Love your kid as a person and give them that reassurance. This is far more important.
  4. You don’t have control over your child’s happiness. The control rests with them.
  5. Instead of encouraging them to become who they “should” be, help them discover who they are.

You Can’t Force Happiness for Your Kids

Let’s be clear: it’s crucial that we’re happy. Our happiness is essential and an incredibly powerful emotional state that we should strive to be in as often as possible.

But the irony of happiness is that the more we seek it, the more elusive it is.

Happiness is not a product we can find; rather it’s a byproduct that finds us. It shows up more and more when we develop a healthy perspective on life and base our lives on strong values. It’s the result of things we do for others — people outside of us. So would it be ideal for us to spend our time doing things that will bring temporary happiness to our children or reinforce in them perspectives and values that will always provide them happiness?

The way to go is teaching our kids things that sometimes are uncomfortable often lead to happiness on their path. While it’s natural that as parents we protect our children, defend them, and always give them things that make them feel good, we should understand that no child learns how to ride a bike unless we let go. Same way they never develop new skills unless we give them space and the chance to get hurt. We need to let go to help them make age-appropriate decisions. However, when they make unwise decisions, it’s our duty to support and correct them; and when they make wise ones, we should show them how well they are doing.

As we’ve seen, the role of the parent is to guide and love and not enforce “happiness” on their little ones. Our function is to embrace them for being courageous to go through the process of making choices, notwithstanding how they do. This is how to love them for who they are. “The measure of a good parent is what he’s willing not to do for his child,” child psychologist, Haim Ginott writes.

Depriving Your Kids Could Mean Happiness

If you restrict the internet on your child’s phone or iPad, do you make them unhappier? Well, probably not. We could argue that your child is being taught the importance of self-control — a key value worth having if they want happiness, not living like the Jones but living life on their own terms. They may fuss about it (in fact, they will), but allowing them to have their way (so they can become happy) could mean unhappiness for them in the long run. Being aware of what could lead to unhappiness for our children and restricting it doesn’t mean we’re depriving them. As a parent, it’s essential that we understand the boundaries that distinguish what will give our kids happiness from what will not.

Laying the Matter to Rest

How dedicated are we to our children’s happiness? There is no doubt, every parent is truly dedicated to their children’s happiness. But in reality, what our children need for happiness can be counterintuitive. It can also require that we do things that are uncomfortable for us to ensure that they grow into happy adults. So ask yourself, “Are you ready to commit yourself to making yourself more uncomfortable so your child can be happier?”

The Happiness You Want for Your Child May Not Be Real Happiness

Rabbi Aryeh Weinstein

Aryeh Weinstein is the father of eight children who he is raising with his wife Rosie. He is a recognized expert in the science of Jewish spirituality. He is the creator and host of the Beginning Within podcast and the Beginning Within Master Course at As a Rabbi, teacher and coach, he teaches the method of learning to live life from within and without having the people and circumstances around you define your emotional state.

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APA Reference
Weinstein, R. (2018). The Happiness You Want for Your Child May Not Be Real Happiness. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 27, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 1 Jun 2017)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.