Parenting – January 2013


By Randy Cale, PH.D

Seeds of happiness for the New Year

It is a given that we all want our children to grow up happy.  Yet, in the country of ever-flowing blessings and abundance, we find many children unhappy, complaining and only wanting ‘more, more…MORE.”  There are several well-documented reasons why all this abundance does not bring more happiness, but the real key is learning what seeds to plant to ensure happiness blossoms in your home.

1. Stop nagging. It destroys self-esteem
Happiness answer:  Use a parenting system with consistency.
For many of us, we nag because we don’t know what else to do in order to get things done.  It’s a simple mistake, yet points to a fatal flaw in our parenting.  The nagging is a substitute for a real parenting system, a day-to-day game plan for running things smoothly. Without this, we use our voice (i.e., reminding and prodding and yelling) to get the kids moving. 
However, the flaw is that this nagging has an ‘unspoken’ message, that becomes more and more clear over time –  these small messages are a constant reminder to your son or daughter that ‘you don’t get it.’  Over time, this is poison to a healthy self-esteem.
2. Stop giving what they want thinking this will make them happy
Happiness answer:  Connect effort/responsibility to the rewards of life.
Many of us have developed the idea that we really want our children having MORE than we had growing up.  Yet, we see that the more children get… the more children want.  And this leaves them without happiness with what they have.  We keep buying and buying and then expect that suddenly someday, our children will start appreciating all these great blessings in their life.
Instead, there is an easy solution.  We must start requiring effort in order to get a reward.  This begins with daily routines, requiring ‘Work done, then you play.’  Then, when your child wants a new toy or game (without a holiday or birthday near), set up extra chores and small jobs so they can earn some cash.  Let them take responsibility for the money they earn, so they have the opportunity to make choices.  For example, they want to splurge on popcorn at the movies when you have said no.  They have cash in their pocket.  So, now they learn to forego a short-term immediate desire (popcorn) to get what they want (new toy).  Or, perhaps they spend their small bit of money on popcorn.  Either way, your child starts to learn about value and you can teach lessons from these moments.
Without parents establishing the relationship between effort and getting what you really want, there is (rarely) development of appreciation and gratitude.  These two emotions are fundamental to finding happiness.  
3. Stop answering the same questions repeatedly, as it produces constant disappointment
Happiness answer:  Presume competence in your children and answer once. Period.
Some children are constantly asking the same questions over and over.  It is a remarkable headache to keep answering them. Then, your clever son or daughter learns to change the question slightly, and asks again.  You then answer again.  And again. And again.
You see how often your answers only disappoint your child.  You tell them, over and over, that they should know this by know… yet they don’t seem to get it! 

The problem here is not that your child doesn’t get it.  The problem is that Mom or Dad doesn’t get it.  As long as you keep answering, they will keep asking.  That’s the secret!  And, as long as you keep answering, your children keep finding disappointment in the answer.   More disappointment leads to more unhappiness. 

I ask parents to make a LONG list of every question that has already been answered in your home.  Show it to your kids and put it up on the wall.  Then, explain in detail that whenever they ask one of those questions, you will simply ignore them and walk away.  This is their cue… to go search for the question and answer on the wall.  (In reality, they will not even need to go to the list as they know the answers.)  Trust me on this:  within a week or so there will be no more repeated questions and MUCH LESS disappointment in your home. 

There is more on the happiness topic, and you can find a new article on five more secrets for happiness at Have a great New Year!

Dr. Randy Cale offers practical guidance for a host of parenting concerns. For more information visit


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