Monday, October 3, 2011


The July/August 2011 issue of The Atlantic had an article entitled How to Land Your Kid in Therapy. The basic premise was that our obsession with our children's' happiness may, in fact, be setting them up for failure later.

When I have asked a group of parents what their mission was with respect to their children, they almost unanimously answer, "for them to be happy." And they go all out to be helpful. They do back this up with intensity of effort.

I abandoned this quest when I meet with someone older and wiser than I. My quest became one of raising my children to be fully functional and compassionate adults. I was in the character building business. That often meant that I was to make them very unhappy.

Christine and I had already downsized our life by pursuing the much less lucrative and weekend eating vocation of priest. Lots of stuff and a schedule that would make a cruise director blush was not in the cards.

Sundays included worship. Period. Artful work-arounds were okay but worship was non-negotiable. Planning was a must. Caring for others and giving of yourself was a priority. Work hard, play hard. Delayed gratification.

Was I successful? Not always. But I kept an eye on a goal other than happiness. It was character strength.

Happiness is not a commodity that stuff or a full calendar can deliver. In fact, both of those make happiness elusive.  Happiness is a fruit of a person "at home" with what's going on inside, even when what's going on outside is not cooperating. Consider today the difference between character-building and the happiness quest. Which pays off more richly?

Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.

Proverbs 22:6

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