How Can I Make My Kid Happy?

by Deborah Gilboa, Family Physician
Originally Published: 

How? Stop. Making your kids happy is not your job.

I’m a mom of four kids, and yes, I’m definitely happiest when my kids are happy. But making them happy? Not my responsibility.

My responsibility, beyond the clothes, shelter and food thing – these kids want to eat every single day! – is teaching them how to make their ways in the world. That way they can figure out what it is they want, and work on getting it long term. I’m trying to turn out self-sufficient people who know how to set a goal and reach it.

Please don’t get me wrong – I love these little (and big) people I’m raising. It’s just that most moments present a choice: Do what they want, or what I know is right.

As a family doctor, I take care of hundreds of families and have seen the fall-out when parents keep giving kids what they want in place of what they need. They get kids who are occasionally sweet, and mostly bratty. Then they find themselves with adult kids who still expect what they want, don’t see why they should have to work for that stuff, and don’t understand why their parents have a problem with the whole situation.

Worse than that, I care for adults who have no idea how to feel in control of their choices, relationships or situation. Some adults face huge hardships and don’t have experience overcoming problems. Some face small obstacles and feel just as stuck, with no problem-solving confidence or skills. As parents, raising our kids now – before they are adults who feel overwhelmed and stuck – we can change the course of their future.

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