I want to have a happy kid.
You want to have a happy kid.
Let’s talk about making that happen.
There was an amazing man named Chief Seattle whose impact will continue to be felt for generations. In a famous speech, he talked about how development and modern progress would bring about “The end of living, the beginning of survival.”
This line has stuck with me for a long time. I most commonly associate it with young people becoming saddled with debt. But it also applies to raising a happy and prepared kid.
After all, those are two of the jobs we have as parents. To provide environments where our kids can be happy, and also prepare them to be happy as adults.
It’s my desire to help my kids avoid making the awful transition from living to surviving.
Before I go any further, know this; I have no formal education in parenting.
What I do have is extensive experience in mentoring young people, managing grown ups, training adults, and now fathering two small humans.
I definitely know the human ego can have a profoundly negative impact on all human relationships, especially the one between a parent and child.
Paying attention to the role your ego is playing will serve you greatly as you work to have a happy kid.
I’m going to share some really practical stuff that’s worked for me over the years.
Here’s what I’ll cover:
- What we want as parents
- What kids want as kids
- The intersection (or collision)
- The way forward
Let’s get started.
What we want as parents
We want our kids to be happy. We want our kids to be polite, well-mannered and respectful. We want them to grow up in an environment where they can flourish and pursue their interests. We want them to develop the skills they need to be successful adults.
I want my kids to learn how to get better. To be able to set a goal and work towards achieving it. I want them to learn to deal with and overcome adversity. To be able to compete and win, whatever they choose to focus their energies on.
With a solid work ethic and self-discipline, combined with the ability to learn, focus and overcome challenges, they’ll be prepared to take on life.
What we don’t want is a spoiled, entitled, disinterested kid.
What kids want as kids
I think one of things that unites the vast majority of human beings is the impulse to find happiness. And I think this is true for most kids.
Kids want to be happy. They want to have fun.
They want to explore and try new things. They want to use their imaginations, explore and create new worlds.
They want guidance and support, but don’t want an overbearing parent.
The intersection or collision
So far, so good. The interests of the parent and child seem to be aligned.
What could go wrong?
When things do go wrong (as they often do), who’s to blame?
While sometimes it really feels like the kid is responsible, as parents, it’s always on us.
In Jocko Willink’s wonderful book, “Extreme Ownership,” he talks about how ultimate responsibility for the successes and failures of a leader are the leader’s alone.
As a parent, that’s you.
You need to take responsibility for your relationship with your kid.
Now, does that mean you’re 100% responsible for their happiness? No.
What it does mean is you’re responsible for creating an environment where they can flourish and thrive.
Paying attention to the role your ego is playing will serve you greatly as you work to create this environment. Here are two stories to illustrate when my ego has gotten in the way.
I played tennis competitively. It taught me a lot of invaluable skills, paid for college, and has given me an immense amount of enjoyment throughout my entire life. It’s been good for me, and I think it could be good for my kids.
It’s for those reasons I want them to play tennis.
So, I bought my oldest a racket, we mess around in the backyard, and I enrolled him in lessons. He had fun for a while, but then announced he didn’t want to play anymore.
Now, knowing the value it’s brought to my life, I pushed back. I told him to give it another chance.
Nope. Not interested.
This was frustrating for me. I knew I could help him succeed. I knew what it could bring him.
And then I recognized my ego had taken over.
We talked about it again, and he reiterated his desire to stop playing. Instead of pushing and potentially turning him away from the sport forever, I accepted his choice. Maybe one day, he’ll want to play again.
All good either way.
The second story I want to share happened last night.
My son made an awesome fort with pillows and blankets in his bed the night before. Remembering back to how much fun I had doing that as a kid, I got an idea.
I’d design an incredible frame out of PVC pipe that would fit over my son’s bed. We’d then be able to drape sheets and blankets over the frame, making the coolest fort ever.
Problem was, it was my design, not his.
Upon completion, he let me know there were terminal flaws in my design.
I had forgotten one of the most important rules; that of ownership. We support what we help to create.
If I had enlisted his help in the design of the fort, it may not have been the optimal structure, but it would have been the one he designed.
Now, when he told me he didn’t like it, my ego got bruised. I got my feelings hurt and was annoyed.
Then I remembered. I remembered I was a grownup and he was a kid. I recognized that my ego was screwing things up.
When we get home tonight, I’ll ask him if he’d like any help with his fort. If he says yes, we’ll work together on it. If he says no, I’ll wait to see the finished product, and tell him how awesome I think it is.
The way forward
Being a parent is wildly important, and very difficult.
We want so much for our kids, but the vast majority of it is out of our hands.
It’s our job to set the table, and to give them the resources to flourish and succeed. We need to be wise enough to recognize when it’s time to push, when it’s time to pull, or when it’s time to let go.
Paying attention to our egos is a big part of this process.
If you’d like to connect with an actual professional, we’ve got Certified Partners who specialize and can help you develop a great relationship with your kids.
We’ve also got Courses that can help.
Here’s to raising happy kids!
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