Every single time I have talked to a group of women about happiness, I have been asked this question:
Is it my job to make my kids happy?
Finally, I’m thrilled to have an answer that comes from a source I trust.
Dr. Deborah Gilboa – you can call her Dr. G – is a family physician and parenting expert. She’s also smart, compassionate, and believes in every parent’s ability to know their own child best (which is the only kind of parenting expert I’ll listen to!)
Here’s what she has to say about happiness, parenting, and where the two overlap.
How do you define happiness?
A room without a roof? Just teasing. I define happiness as one part contentment, one part excitement and one part physical pleasure! That last part could be an ice cream sundae, a massage, a sandy beach or a boat, depending on the moment.
What is a parent’s responsibility in their child(ren)’s happiness?
Our job is to give our kids the tools they need to find and make their own happiness. We have to take the long view (because goodness knows they can’t!), and raise them towards a worthwhile adulthood.
What do you do when your kids are unhappy?
I ask them about it. I ask why, and what and how, and then I ask how he might solve the problem he faces, or how he might move on from the disappointment.
I show empathy. I do not set myself up as the person who will fix it, but I often mention that I could offer some suggestions.
What “shoulds” have you let go of in order to be a happier parent?
That I should have a clean house, that I should cook a full dinner for my kids every night, that I should be with each of them for each game/performance/playdate.
We do a lot of balancing with 4 boys in 6 years, out of necessity. It’s taught me some great lessons, like what I can let go and what I shouldn’t. If we only had one child I don’t think I would have traveled that path!
What’s the best advice about happiness you’ve ever received?
That happiness is more rare in the “big” moments than in the everyday. We often have a lot of expectations built up and emotions swirling at the milestone events. That the happiness in the car on the way to the graduation while singing along to a great song on the radio is every bit as valuable (and often more achievable) than happiness while shaking the university president’s hand.
How much do you love the idea of a parenting expert who might not have a spotless house or be serving a homemade dinner every night? Lots!
But that doesn’t mean that Deborah is a hands-off parent. In her new book, Get the Behavior You Want… Without Being the Parent You Hate, Dr. G makes it clear that she wants her kids to succeed in the real world and she takes a proactive approach to making that happen. If you’re looking for some practical advice to get your kids to be more responsible, respectful, and resilient, I highly recommend checking it out!