Should You Make Your Kids Happy? Dr. G Has the Answer

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.

Get the Behavior You Want... book cover

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.

dr g advice on parenting and happinessWhat “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!

The Absolute Easiest Way for Busy People to Practice Mindfulness

busy people being mindful

Experts promise that you’ll be happier if you can be more mindful. But what the heck does that mean – and does anyone really have the time for it?

What it means: mindfulness is just a fancy way of saying that you are paying attention to the here and now.

As simple as that sounds, it’s shocking how often you probably aren’t being mindful – especially if you’re a woman.

Most of us tend to do one thing while thinking about another. We drive home while mentally planning dinner. We make dinner while wondering if our kids are caught up on homework and when the last time we called our own mother was. We eat dinner while trying to get everyone else at the table to communicate openly about how their day went.

This mental multi-tasking might be how you attempt to “get it all done”, but research shows mindfulness can actually help you manage your busy life better.

People who practice mindfulness are:

  • more focused
  • less depressed
  • more satisfied in their relationships
  • less emotionally reactive
  • more intuitive
  • less stressed

Rest assured, you don’t have to be mindful all the time. Moderation is a good thing even in matters of mindfulness (in fact, we tend to be most creative when we are mentally distracted.) You just need to find some time to be present.

And I promise you aren’t too busy.

If you shower, you have time to be mindful.

One of the easiest ways for busy people to practice mindfulness is to take a mindful shower.


You have to do it anyway, and you know you usually forget all of those brilliant ideas you have the second you turn off the water. Instead of letting your mind run in circles while you lather up, seize this precious personal time to practice being present.

Pay attention to…

  • how the water feels on your skin.
  • the smell of your shampoo.
  • the way your fingers feel on your scalp.
  • how the steam accumulates around you.

You don’t have to experience some kind of soap commercial nirvana; just notice what is while you’re performing the necessary task of getting clean. Give yourself those few minutes to let go of the future and the past. Trust that the world can maintain its orbit long enough for you to wash the stink off.

It might seem like a small thing, but it’s a good start.

It’s enough to make a difference.

Want a few more ideas for practicing mindfulness?

Happiness Interview: Naomi Hattaway

When I first met Naomi she was living in India. Then she and her family moved to Singapore, she and her kids and their beloved street dog happily following her husband’s career around the world. Now, she’s settling into what she calls her Forever Home in the countryside outside of D.C. – and she is just as happy and adventurous as ever.

Naomi inspires me because she is the type of woman who sends friends from the Internet thank you cards, inspirational tea bags, and earrings from India. She goes the extra mile with her relationships.

She’s also one of the most positive, generous, and caring people you could ever hope to bump into – online or off.

Here’s what she has to say about happiness.


How do you define happiness?

That’s such a hard question for me to answer succinctly. I used to think happiness mirrored the feeling of elation or joy. It used to be only defined by the giddy, butterflies in my stomach, full on laughter kind of emotion. As I get older, move around and continue to raise kiddos through adulthood (how did that happen so fast?) I think that happiness is a series of moments during which I am aware. That sounds so foo-foo, doesn’t it?

I am happiest when I can be present in the fact that I have enough, I am enough, I can create, I can change the world I live in. I am happiest when I am grateful for what is in my life. I am happiest when I am on a path towards a project, journey or challenge.

What “shoulds” have you let go of in order to pursue your happiness?

The “shoulds” I’ve had to let go of in order to pursue my happiness are three big and easy ones to share with you.

  1. I should have never had a child at age 18, unmarried and broke.
  2. I should finish what I start.
  3. I shouldn’t have said that.

What do you do when you’re feeling UNhappy?

When I’m feeling unhappy, the FIRST thing I do is turn on music. I go to several places for this. Best one for productivity is Focus@Will. Best one for kicking my bad attitude to the curb is my running playlist. I’ve created several grooveshark playlists that are perfect to get me up and focused on something else.

SECOND thing is to create a quick mental gratitude list. It can be as simple as: I am grateful to be sitting under a bright blue, expansive sky. I am grateful and aware of my amazing family. I am grateful for my husband who always remembers to ask if I need anything from the store on his way home from work. I am grateful for … (the list gets REALLY long, rather quickly!).

Typically, those two things jumpstart my happiness continuum. If I need an extra boost, I typically reach for my camera or take a gander through my photo archives. I recently started an online collaboration of photography with a friend. We invite others to contribute the color they see in their world. It has an AMAZING way of bringing in a happiness injection!

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received about happiness?

The best advice I have ever received about happiness actually came from you, Britt!

Enough of spending my days daydreaming about an upcoming vacation (surely, that will make me happy) or the next date night. Ridding myself of the notion that tomorrow will be better or that reaching my goals would equate to finally achieving the happiness grail did wonders for my sanity and overall mental state.

Today is the day I choose to be happy and spread that contagious energy and way of life to others!

That’s pretty much exactly how I think of Naomi: spreading contagious energy. :-) Check out her website for more of that energy.

3 Tiny Steps to Break the “I Know Better But I’m Not Doing Better” Cycle


You know what I never do when I’m feeling depressed? Google “how to stop being depressed.”

Because I know how. I know exactly what I need to do to feel better.

The knowing and the doing are not the same thing.

I don’t know anyone who does exactly what is good for themselves all the time. I know lots of people, however, who get off track and quickly find themselves in a shame spiral about how they should be taking better care of themselves.

You know what doesn’t fix depression? Shame.

In fact, shame can prolong the funk. It keeps us from going back to the gym, or calling a friend, or reopening our gratitude journals because it’s been so long. Shame perpetuates the cycle.

Here’s how you can break it.

3 Tiny Steps to Get Back to Doing What’s Good For You

1. Combat the shame by reaching out.

Shame says things like, “what the hell is the matter with you?” and “maybe you’re just lazy” and “everyone is tired of hearing about my problems that I’m not doing anything about.”

The best way to shut that shame up is to tell someone about it. Shame is a gremlin that withers and dies when you shine a light on it.

Tell someone you trust that you are struggling. Tell them it’s hard, and that you’re scared, and that you don’t know what the heck is going on. Ask them to listen without helping.

2. Focus on direction, not distance.

The more time we spend not doing what makes us happy, the farther we imagine the journey back to it must be. That’s a myth. In truth, happiness is not a destination but a direction in which you travel.

The moment you turn around, you are already back on track.

But here’s the thing about turning around: a significant force is required to change direction. That’s the bad news.

The good news is that once you get turned around, it will take much less effort to keep moving towards the light. That’s physics.

Keep telling yourself:

point towards happiness

3. Do one small thing before you feel better.

Exercise, eat healthy, go outside, do yoga, keep a gratitude journal, call a friend, take a walk… SO! MANY! OPTIONS!

A long list of potential lifesavers can become the weight that drowns you. Think smaller.

Pick one thing today you can do to move towards the light. Pick the easiest thing: the one item on your to-do list that will require the least amount of effort but still earn the satisfaction of a checkmark.

Have faith that will be enough.

Remember that you are only changing direction, and each small action is a degree you’re turning. Every degree counts.

You can do this.

Happiness Interview with Grandma & Triathlete Sharon Couto

I want to be Sharon Couto when I grow up.

Her effortless style, charm, and grace are rivaled only by starlets from the Golden Age of Hollywood – and she is so much more than a pretty face. Sharon is a mother, grandmother, wife, friend, writer, and retired teacher. But perhaps the label that impresses me the most is triathlete.

At 61, Sharon swam, ran, and biked her way to the finish line of the Eagleman 70.3 Ironman.

I’m thrilled to share her – and her happiness interview – with you today.

sharon couto

How do you define happiness?

Happiness to me is a feeling of being aware of the present in the strongest way… going forth in life, considering the past, but feeling worthy and joyful in the present. There is a purity in the present that will never happen again, and mindfulness of this, celebrating “the moment” is a great gift in discovering Happiness. Happiness is simple, really, if we use our senses to FEEL it in each and every moment. It is always there, just waiting for us to discover it.

How do you incorporate what makes you happy into your day-to-day life?

moments instead of timeWell, I am very aware of my spirit of control.

I stop to admire flowers and babies and art and food. I read. I call or visit my children and grandchildren and my Mom almost every day. I exercise! I build goals into my exercise that tests my spirit and challenges me both mentally and physically. I run. I swim. I cycle. I practice Yoga.

I came to all of these things later in life, which gives me, I think, such a great appreciation of my health and ability to DO these things. These activities give me lots of time to think, to be mindful of my SELF, which makes me mindful of others. I feel blessed – HAPPY – to be healthy.

I manage time very well; I don’t overlook moments of beauty or love or my passions. It’s amazing what can be fit into 24 hours if we concentrate on moments rather than TIME!

Are there any “shoulds” you’ve had to let go of in order to pursue your happiness?

Oh, yes; there’s one great big “should.” I’ve had to let go of that feeling that women, in particular, are happiness-providers.

I can’t crawl into anyone’s soul or heart or brain or body to build a stronger spirit for anyone else. I can teach and advise and offer experience and the wisdom that comes with age, but I cannot make someone feel inward happiness. I can bring happiness to the table, to the occasion, to the moment… but happiness is mindfully and uniquely individual.

What do you do when you aren’t happy?

I think I wear “happy” always, but if I’m feeling sad or overwhelmed or angry about something, I generally pray. I pray every single day. I have a deep faith in God and in my angels whom I love.

Oh, I’m good at ranting – cleansing, if you will. too! I get my feelings out rather well, thank you. I’m the master of obscenities. I need balance, honesty and I need everything to be fair, so that particular passion fuels more passion. I’m a Libra.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received about happiness?

It sounds and seems so simple, but it’s the truth. I’ve passed this advice onto hundreds of people, including my children, now my grandchildren and to my many, many students when I was teaching. Of course there are times when we can’t bear to wear the “happiness crown”, but there are so many more times when we can put it on and genuinely let it glow.

You can read more from Sharon at Mom Generations. Check out the rest of the happiness interviews here.