Principal’s Perspective: The Roots of Adult Happiness
As a parent, would you prefer to raise a child who becomes a happy adult, or raise a Nobel Prize winner?
Stop! Don’t answer the question, because the question is booby-trapped. It implies that you have to make a choice, when, in fact, you do not. You can be happy and win the Nobel Prize. It is not an either/or proposition. I emphasize this point, because many parents, schools, teachers, and coaches teach the opposite. They say that the child must choose between happiness and high achievement. They imply that the only way to reach the top is to sacrifice all your free time and work till you drop.
In his book, The Childhood Roots of Adult Happiness, psychiatrist Edward Hallowell encourages parents to learn the keys to preparing their children for a joy filled life. Hallowell personally knows five Harvard educated Nobel Prize recipients who exemplify the healthy lifestyle of happiness and success. These Nobel winners tell Hallowell they were not trying to please their parent; they were trying to satisfy a curiosity that burns within their soul. They love their work.
Hallowell believes the goal for a parent should be to help the child find his or her domains of curiosity and desire, and let those two forces provide the pressure and the motivation. The parent may have to push the child to take the first lesson, but sooner or later, the child should find within itself the desire to excel. Hallowell says parents must be sure the pressure they exert is the right kind. “Do your best,” is advice that instills a good kind of pressure. “Please me,” on the other hand, is a request that can haunt a child forever, instilling toxic pressure.
The key to joyful success is making sure that your child knows
you love him or her, no matter what they do.
Conditional love from a parent does great harm, but unconditional love is the elixir of life. The value of unconditional love is summed up beautifully in the reply of a famous man who was asked how he had achieved so much in his life. He said, “In my mother’s eyes I only saw smiles.” We parents have such a short time to smile those smiles, to instill whatever it is that we are going to instill. We have to do our best to get it right the first time.
Children who believed their parents enjoyed their accomplishments more than who they were as people, were haunted to excel. Unfortunately, their emotional emptiness drained away their intellectual strength, causing them to do less well than they could have. Unconditional love seemed to be the motivating force in the successful child’s life.
This perspective is very biblical. St. Paul warns parents in Ephesians 6: “Fathers, do not irritate and provoke your children to anger [do not exasperate them to resentment], but rear them [tenderly] in the training and discipline and the counsel and admonition of the Lord.” In Proverbs 15:1, we are counseled to offer a gentle answer to avoid resentment. If we approach our children with tact, like we would a stranger, they are more likely to consider our advice.
How do your children perceive your responses towards them?
Do they see you as delighted with them or disappointed?
This is the time to assess your relationship.
Childhood is short, but the memories last a lifetime.
Make sure you are using this time to touch your child’s life for eternity.