The Parent’s Role
Happiness is a given for many kids, although even for the sunniest kids, it’s still not a given all the time. For others, happiness is entirely contingent on everything’s working out exactly as expected with a single hitch. As soon as one thing goes off the track, it’s the end of the world as we know it. In the face of our children’s distress, we anguish over their suffering and the burden it creates in their life. As parents, we need to develop a two-track mind—feeling that burden, but seeing the possibilities for change.
We could keep trying to make life work for our children, make them feel better, bend over backward, walk on eggshells, and do a daily mine-sweep to keep all systems go. As all parents of a child with a negative bent know, there’s always that one more thing that we didn’t think of. Some children’s nose for the negative is like a bad allergy to adversity or discontent so that they notice it in the most minute detail and are thrown into a tailspin. Trying to “just be positive and hopeful” doesn’t work either. (It’s like applying paint to a poorly prepared surface: No matter how beautiful the paint, it simply won’t stick). And when your friends and relatives chide you to just be more firm and use “tough love” with your child’s “crankiness” or “spoiled” behavior, they are completely missing the point: These kids would love things to be different; they don’t want to think, feel, or act this way, they just don’t know what else to do.
The goal is not to airlift your child off the unhappy track to the happy track. Rather, it’s to work smarter, not harder—to learn the nuts and bolts of how your child’s thinking got her there in the first place, and to teach her how to be analytical and critical of that negative track so that she will choose to airlift herself to a different track, one that will lead to contentment and satisfaction.