Does it Matter if Your Son is Happy?

“I just want you to be happy”. How many times have we either uttered these words or heard other parents say this to their children? Why are we so consumed with the happiness of our children?


I used to say this to my sons until I realized that happiness is rather subjective. I also realized that for children who are loved unconditionally, nurtured and cared for, happiness is just a state of being.  Happiness became a focal point in our lives a couple of years ago during my son’s turbulent middle school years and my husband’s deployment.   I became obsessed with making sure everyone around me was happy. Looking back, I was just consumed by the superficial happiness of my family.   As long as they looked and sounded happy, that’s all that mattered to me.

This continued until the day my dad passed away.  It was what one would call a “happy day”.  The weather was perfect and I was enjoying quality time with my family. Still basking in the glory of all that happiness, when I got home, I received the call that my father had just died.

I was a wreck for a long time. I began to refer to everything as B.D., “Before Death”. I felt that no one around me had the right to be happy.  I wanted others to feel as miserable as I did and when they didn’t, I resented them.  I was a walking contradiction to my sons. On one hand, I was making cliche comments about living life to its fullest and on the other hand I was reprimanded them for simply being happy. Instead of being resilient, I had become rigid.  I couldn’t understand how one can be happy when grieving. The problem was that for so many years, happiness dominated my life. I allowed my life to be dictated by what did or did not make me happy.

I neglected to see the messages I was sending my sons about happiness:

  1. As long as they’re happy, nothing else matters in life.
  2. My happiness and emotional well being is contingent upon their happiness.
  3. Happiness is the most important value in life.
  4. If they’re not happy, then there’s something wrong with them.

I’m a bit more mature about the emotional needs of my sons.I don’t want my sons to live their lives chained to the the quest for happiness.  I don’t want my sons to think they’re entitled to be happy. I want them to understand that life is full of peaks and valleys. I want them to appreciate the good and bad days in life. I want them to be able to regulate their emotions and understand that happiness is a choice.  I want my sons to make their emotional and mental health a priority and recognize when it’s not just the blues or stress. I want my sons not to hide behind a happy face to avoid the stigma of depression.

Instead of focusing on raising happy kids, we should focus on raising compassionate, empathetic and resilient people.  Happiness should not be such a powerful force in their lives that it can change the course of their day because of disappointment, rejection, or failure.

Constantly, telling your son “I just want you to be happy” will not make him happy. Stop trying to give him everything he wants to make him happy. It’s only a temporary fix. The more your try to make him happy, the more he will demand of you to be happy. If you keep it up, he will never appreciate anything or anyone in his life.  Life will be full of frustrations and how your son manages his emotions will determine how he handles life.



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