In dealing with children, I urge you first and foremost to enjoy them. Preserve and protect childhood. If you wonder why you should take this seriously, I ask you simply to remember your childhood and what made it different from adulthood. Remember that time of life, that state of mind, when you were lord of all the fields and king or queen of all the stars and feel now how much your will to love and dream and risk and create depends on your having had that once, having had that time when everything was new and possible and impossible all at once.
WHAT DO I REALLY WANT FOR MY CHILDREN?
Think of your children. Bring their faces to your mind. Then ask yourself, “What do I really want for them in their lives?”
Don’t assume you know. Before you spend another day as a parent (or as a teacher or a coach or anyone else involved with children), try to answer this deceptively simple question: What do I really want for my children?
Is it trophies and prizes and stardom? Do you want them all to grow up and become president of the United States?Is it riches and financial security? Is it true love? Or is it just a better life than the one you have now?
On some days you might quickly reply, “I just want them to clean up their rooms, do their homework, and obey me when I speak.” On other days, when you are caught up in the pressures your children are feeling at school, you might desperately reply, “I just want my children to get high SAT scores and be admitted to Prestige College.”
But if you linger over the question, your reply will almost certainly include one particular word: the simple, even silly-seeming word happy. Most of us parents just want our children to be happy, now and forever. Oh, sure, we also want them to be good people; we want them to contribute to the world; we want them to care for others and lead responsible lives.But deep down, most of us, more than anything else, want our children to be happy.
If we take certain steps, we can actually make it happen. Recent research has proved that parents and teachers can greatly increase the chances that their children and students will grow up to be happy, responsible adults by instilling certain qualities that might not seem of paramount importance but in fact are—inner qualities such as optimism, playfulness, a can-do attitude, and connectedness (the feeling of being a part of something larger than yourself). While traditional advice urges parents to instill discipline and a strong work ethic in their children, that advice can backﬁre when put into practice. The child may resist or do precisely the opposite of what is asked or even comply, but joylessly. That joylessness can last a whole life long.
We need a more reliable route to lifelong joy than can be provided by lectures on discipline or rewards for high grades and hard work.Of course, discipline and hard work matter, as do grades and civil behavior. But how you reach those goals is key. The engine of a happy life runs better on the power of connection and play than on the power of fear and guilt.
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