By Joseph Sacks, LCSW
Many parents think that happiness is like a goal that they would like their children to achieve some day, like it's the icing on the cake. The important thing in life is to be a good person and to be successful, and happiness is like a nice pleasant extra.
However I'm saying that happiness is like a tool that must be constantly applied in a child's life, it is the most important tool for child success!
It is a most critical ingredient in the recipe for moral character. It’s not just a goal, it’s the means to achieve your goals. Parents are obliged to provide food, clothing, shelter, education, and healthcare for their children; these things are needs that are the foundation upon which success is built, but there is one more essential part of the foundation: happiness. It is a deep and fundamental need, a prerequisite that must be fulfilled in order for all good things to follow. A happy attitude creates health, both emotional and physical. It actually prevents illness. It is the greatest indicator of future success. Happiness is the gasoline that gives the child the strength to persevere and get through his day. Even if he gets just a little less than he needs he can’t function properly and all sorts of problems will ensue. Happiness encourages kindness and good moral character; children who are happy are much more likely to be kind to others and to avoid anti-social activity. Happiness prevents children from being the kind of kids who cause problems. It prevents tantrums, defiance and rebellious behavior. It relieves anxiety, depression and a whole host of other emotional problems. Happiness in children creates a wonderful parent-child relationship in a much more pleasant family atmosphere. Many parents have the idea that unpleasant experiences such as adversity build character, but I have never found this to be true. The benefits of happiness are so great that they completely outweigh any supposed benefit to be gained from hard knocks such as harshness, criticism, scolding punishment or a conflicted or adversarial parent-child relationship.
So how do we achieve happiness for our children?
The answer is we must set a powerful example of how important it is to be happy by showing the child “It is so important that you be happy that I am going to personally make sure you are as happy as possible myself.” This means we must go to any lengths to make their day as pleasant as possible. We must be so kind, generous and gentle to them in every moment. Childhood is like a microcosm of the rest of a person’s life, to the extent that he experiences joy as a child, he will be happy as an adult, but too many unpleasant experiences in childhood teach him that life is a misery, and he will develop the habit of experiencing it as such. This means if you want the child to be happy and successful later in life you must make him happy now. You must get him into the habit of being happy, so that he gets so used to it that when he ever becomes unhappy he realizes something is terribly wrong and will be quick to see the seriousness of the need to remedy the situation. We must give him many opportunities to practice the skill of making himself happy.
When you make a child’s life as pleasant as possible then he thinks, “Life is generally good.”
Then even when bad things happen to him later, they don't get him down because those bad things are outweighed by all the good things that happened to him in his childhood. This will give him the strength to weather those tough spots and come out successful and with a positive outlook. But if his childhood is generally beset with unpleasantness, and you add that together with the inevitable troubles and disappointments that life later brings, his overall conclusion will be, “Life is not that good, bad things happen to me,” and he will be discouraged and will not have the emotional strength to persevere and be successful.
Never fear that you are spoiling a child by making his life pleasant!
You are doing him the greatest of service, increasing happiness will actually prevent him from acting spoiled!
When parents seriously work to make their children happy, the child knows it and reacts with great love towards his parents. He associates that happiness with the parents themselves and it creates an incredible bond. It also makes them much more likely to comply with requests and to honor and revere their parents. Having happy children makes the parents’ lives so much more joyous and pleasant! It does wonders for social life.
Being generally happy is the greatest indicator that one will be successful and that one will be a good, kind, moral person. However, unhappiness creates discouragement, defeat, lack of motivation, selfishness and bad character traits.
Carefully weigh the effects of unpleasant medicine!
When causing a child unpleasantness which is necessary for the child's own good, such as giving him horrible tasting castor oil because the doctor says he needs the vitamin D, you have to think, is the benefit I am gaining for the child's health greater than the damage done to his positive outlook and happiness level? Maybe if he doesn’t get his medicine, he will get sick and be much more unhappy in the long run. My only point is that many times the benefit gained from some bitter medicine such as scolding, reprimands or punishment, is not really so worthwhile or necessary, and the damage to the happiness level outweighs it. For example, I know a parent who literally force brushes her child’s teeth every night. The misery she thus causes him is far more damaging then any tooth decay caused by not brushing would be!
You see, happiness and pleasantness is the lubrication that smooths over all the rough spots in life, it actually gives children power and strength to choose to do the right thing and be successful. It is their most valuable asset.
Therefore, gladden your children and shield them from every unnecessary adversity,
and they will be much better prepared for every challenge that may face them in the future.
How Play Therapy raises the happiness level.
Child-Centered Play Therapy does much more that simply provide a pleasant activity. How does it work?
In the Playroom, I don’t direct the child, I give him or her complete control of the action, and I follow him. I show great respect and celebration for every decision taken, desire realized and feeling expressed, so the child develops tremendous respect for his own self; his needs, feelings and desires. This gives him an exhilarating and empowering sense of control over his own life, called self-determination. In addition, it gives him conscious awareness of his own emotional life. Play Therapy gives him the self-esteem, self-confidence and self-respect to serve as a foundation for true, deep, lasting happiness that he takes with him out of the session and into his daily life. This increased contentment level resolves behavior problems, anxiety, depression, ADHD, and a host of other issues.
Please be advised that the above represents a parenting ideal, and I don’t expect anyone to be able to fulfill it perfectly. So have patience with yourself and try to implement new ideas gradually.
Feel free to peruse my interesting blog, download one of my informative free reports, or view my video. If you would like to give your child the gift of more happiness, the most important tool for child success, and would like guidance from a child therapist in NYC, you may chat with me in the chat box, or call me directly at 646-681-1707 for a complementary 15-minute consultation. I look forward to speaking with you!