Why Healthy Children Aren’t Always Happy

I’m always looking for books to read to and with my family–just a page or two after dinner, as we’re all seated around the table, before we clear off the dishes. My oldest is a brand new teenager, her brother is a month shy of 11 and then there’s our 6 year old, who has a death grip on being the baby of the family. It’s challenging because of the age differences, sometimes we are over their heads and other times, way under..which is why we ended up chalk-boarding our kitchen table. It works. Some nights. And then it doesn’t.

But we keep trying. (Current book attempt:Wild Grace P.S. Max Lucado has several other teen versions of his best sellers that have been successful for our family reading time with occasional omissions/edits.)

photo

And we keep failing. I call it a success if we can read a paragraph without starting over because of interruptions. And it’s a home run if a fruitful discussion happens based on what we’re reading and not digress on which Kindergarten boy pooped on the playground during recess. (Oh, you’d like to hear that story wouldn’t you?)

As we were finishing up our Resurrection Eggs two weeks ago (we did 3 every night for the four days leading up to Easter), I could tell we were losing my teenager’s interest and she tried to distract her brother. She was bored, but I continued because little sister was ALL ABOUT THE EGGS.

To make a long story short, before I could finish, my hubby had corrected my kids 3 times and had run out of patience and then one of my kids, actually threw the holy plastic egg at their sibling. It went downhill from there. I closed the book and pointed to the back yard.

Yes, I banished my children to weed pulling for the next hour. (We have a lot of weeds).

If having unhappy children was an Olympic event, I’d be wearing gold most days.

Side story:  As my hubby and I cleaned up dinner in silence, I said, “When you’re not angry, can we talk about this and maybe how you should pick your battles?” He was silent. So instead of waiting like I suggested, I let him have it.

My husband dried off his hands and said, “I’m going to go pull weeds, too.”

Well, that did not go as planned.

As I stood alone in my kitchen, I wasn’t sure if I should laugh or cry or join the rest of my family outside. So, I apologized to my husband.

When it comes to parenting, I waiver between wanting peace to reign in my home, and not being willing to sacrifice everything to get it.

Someone I knew a long time ago once said to me as I corrected my strong-willed daughter for bad behavior, while hers got away with the very same thing, “I find that my child is a lot happier when I just give in sometimes.” We sort of stopped getting together after that because I couldn’t compete with her “happy” child who was also sort of bratty.

I realized right then and there, this whole mom thing was a lot tougher than I thought. Because an (immediate) happy child isn’t always a (longterm) healthy child.

Oh, I’m not anti-happy.  I don’t purposefully make my kids sad or angry. I just think it’s important to stick to my guns and the unhappiness kind of flows from that. Because here’s the thing: When they are unhappy, it generally means we are doing something right because often their unhappiness is a result of us trying to shape their wills into ours and ultimately, God’s.

My goal is deeper than happiness. I’m after contentment.  ”A happy heart makes the face cheerful.” – Proverbs 15:13. True happiness comes from within.

True contentment is being okay with life whether you get your way or not. When my daughter wants another new pair of shoes or the latest scarf to add to her collection, I usually want to give it to her and that would certainly make her happy (for the time being.)

But since my ultimate goal is to reduce entitlement, feed gratitude and produce contentment, I don’t automatically buy it for her just because she wants it. While I do sometimes buy (or give in) my kids things just because, I don’t always and this alone can produce temporary unhappiness. I often make them save, work or wait for it and bless them after they’ve worked hard with something they’ve had their eye on.

Did you know that your job as a parent is not to create a happy child? That if your child is temporarily unhappy, when he or she does choose to put a happy face back on, life will be better for all of you?” -Dr. Kevin Leman

We live in a culture that is terrified of raising unhappy kids. We over enduldge, cater to every whim and often let them grow up much faster than they need to. When the Bible talks about trials and tribulations testing our faith and making it stronger, that’s not just for adults. It’s for believers. Some of the best lessons my kids have learned are through their own personal hardships (a fashion crisis can be a hardship to a pre-teen girl).

So, when our kiddos are pouting and mumbling and seem unhappy, take heart – You are doing a good job and ultimately raising healthy adults..

{Here’s where I got my happy wall hook decor}


Comments

  1. says

    Great post!

    Loved the story about your hubby heading out to pull weeds with the kids. Thanks for keepin’ it real.

    Our job as mothers is not to “keep our children happy”, nor is it to “be our child’s best friend” (as too many mothers focus on).

    Teaching our children to know the difference between Joy and Happiness should be one of our goals, along with teaching contentment in times of want, and joy in times of trial.

    Laurel
    mama of 12

  2. says

    Thank you for this! It really touched my heart at a moment when I needed to hear this words so badly! I have a very unhappy step-daughter right now. That she is my step-daughter adds to the difficulty to follow-through with what I believe is best. I feel like I’m making her (and my husband) miserable by trying to undo habits of lying and disobeying. I have to keep teaching my husband that all this work is worth it and it is our job to raise a respectful and successful adult who will teach her own children someday. Thank you for your words!

  3. says

    Kristen, you just made my morning! And brought tears to my eyes to not be alone! SO often I feel like the only mom correcting her kids. Choosing the battle instead of the quiet route out. And it is because We’re not here to just appease them. We’re here to put expectations on them, show them the way, be their PARENTS. Let them get their own friends. Thank you, Kristen. You’re doing a great job. You’ve been an inspiration to me for so many years. I share so many of your posts on FB because I believe in what you say. Keep up the good work. We need more people like you who realize that just because parenting is hard it doesn’t mean you’re doing it wrong, it means you’re doing it right. Thank you. God bless you, your family, and Mercy House.

  4. says

    After a morning of screaming unhappy children cause I’m making them clean their rooms the right way-I needed to read this. Cause while parenting for today-I’m preparing them for their future……thanks for sharing.

  5. Kristen says

    This:

    “My goal is deeper than happiness. I’m after contentment.”

    Yes. Oh, yes. I’m the mom of four (soon to be five!) kids under seven and this is a perfect reminder of what I’m really trying to do here. Thanks.

  6. AmberK says

    ”A happy heart makes the face cheerful.” – Proverbs 15:13. True happiness comes from within.
    Loved that, Kristen. So very true. And the world doesn’t teach that so WE have to.

    I love your blog…you’re honest and real and I think everyone can relate. So! There’s my cheerleading chant for you today! :)

    Have a wonderful day. Please oh please hug on some Mercy House babies for me, too! :)

  7. Tasi says

    Hmm. While I definitely am a mom that doesn’t believe her job is to make her children happy all the time, I’m choking over your idea that we are to shape our children’s wills in an attempt to make their wills like God’s. Do you want to explain that more?

    • says

      Maybe that doesn’t come across the way I meant it? As parents aren’t we helping shape our children through discipline and love? And we are doing this ultimately so that they will be more like Jesus…lay down their will for his? That’s what I meant.

    • Heather says

      I think she is speaking to the fact that we all want our own way and one of the most important things in the Christian faith is learning to submit to the Lord in your life, allowing Him to lead and guide. When raising your children to follow God, teaching them to submit and encounter times when “having our way” is not necessarily the best is all a part of it. One of our jobs as Christian parents is to teach our children to heed the sound of our voice and to pray that as they grow up, they will come to heed the sound of God’s voice in their lives.

  8. says

    Thanks for the encouragement, I was struggling with the world’s expectations this last week and it’s nice to have the reminder that my kids do not always have to be happy./

  9. Gwen says

    A very wise woman once thold me, “It is not important that your child like you all the time.” Another I like, “God is much more concerned with my holiness than he is with my happiness.” You are doing a great job, Mom!

  10. Ashley says

    “I just think it’s important to stick to my guns and the unhappiness kind of flows from that. Because here’s the thing: When they are unhappy, it generally means we are doing something right because often their unhappiness is a result of us trying to shape their wills into ours and ultimately, God’s….My goal is deeper than happiness. I’m after contentment.”

    I take issue with the above statement.

    I don’t think your story entirely relates to the point of your post. Forcing children to participate in non-age appropriate activities and teaching them about God and the importance of hard work are not the same things. We don’t need to be unyielding and inflexible with our children. We still need to listen to them.

    I also disagree that an unhappy child automatically leads to content adult. There is a good chance in developing a bitter adult who doesn’t feel like they have a say or choice in anything or a person who is unable to stand up from themselves because they’ve been chastised so much for noncompliance.

    I don’t agree that our job is to shape their wills to ours and God’s. Even as an adult I know that I have to fight battles and pray for my will to be God’s will.

  11. Jane Bailey says

    Great post, I really resonate with this. Lately, I hear a lot of people say “I just want to be happy or I just want my kids to be happy”. And I think really, some people may do drugs because it makes them happy or get a divorce because they just want to be happy. Happiness comes and goes, the focus should be am I being Christ-like.

  12. says

    TRUTH! Thank you for this! I’m much more concerned with raising responsible adults than happy children. I’m a “tough” mom because my kids have boundaries and I enforce them, even when it means I don’t get to do what I want (ex: canceling a play date or leaving early because of my child’s behavior even though I’d rather just sit and talk with my friend)

    Thank you for you openness and honesty. Thank you for being real.

  13. Tina Yaeger-Goins says

    Love this and couldn’t agree more! It’s nice to know that I’m not the only one that feels this way and that sometimes it’s okay to let my child be unhappy in order to help mold her character.

  14. says

    I seriously wish you lived next door and you could walk me through this whole parenting thing. Our kids are similar ages. We have similar struggles…only I swear I have so much to learn from you about helping my kids navigate through worldly issues. Anyway, thanks for the post and the encouragement. Pretty sure jewels are added to crown over this and what it will encourage my family to do.

  15. says

    My kids call me The Ruiner.
    But you know what? They are well behaved (most of the time), get good grades, have NICE friends and know when enough is enough.
    Go ahead, call me The Ruiner – but this momma is raising kids to be self sufficient, responsible and KIND citizens.

    Plus, on a good day – I still get “you’re the best mom, ever!” (mostly because I, too, need a milk shake after a long day)

    Keep up the great work!

    Jenny
    ps- We have a lot of weeds too…hmmmmmm ;)

  16. says

    Love this.

    Also: Fablehaven by Brandon Mull is our favorite read-aloud series! It isn’t about faith, but it’s very family-friendly and I feel like your kids’ are the perfect ages for it?

  17. Jan says

    OH…..Your post is an eye-opener and an encouragement! I’m not a parent…not yet…and that’s why it has blessed me soo!!! All this time, when I looked back at my childhood, some days, i would grieve that I was not a very happy child! But now, I praise God that I was not happy! Because now God has made me a content adult! Thank you soo much….Keep writing and may God continue to bless people through the words He pour out of you.

  18. says

    My daughters were 9 years apart and we worked hard at interesting both of them at the same time. Didn’t always manage it. Or keeping them happy. When they were tiny we used the happy face game. If they were unhappy they went to their room to look for a happy face. One day my daughter came back out sobbing. “I looked for a happy face under the bed, in my drawers and I even looked behind the toilet.” We found one in the oven that day. Of course the game only lasted until she realized a happy face was on level with the tooth fairy. We may have an unhappy child once in a while, but we’ll also have respectful adults who not only love God, but each other, too. (Once in a while God sends me out to pull weeds, too.)

  19. Heather says

    Thank you for the reminder, we are dealing with a very “unhappy” 7 year old right now and your note was a great encouragment to keep on keeping on! Also, I would LOVE to see a picture of your chalkboard table! I have to refinish mine and I’d love to see how yours turned out!

  20. Melissa McIntyre says

    AMEN Kristen!!! I don’t think I’ve ever commented on your blog, but I’ve been reading it for a few months now. Can we be friends? ;-) I am the “hard one”when it comes to correcting our children. It seems that soo many moms are most often the soft one, but not me! We homeschool our 6 kids and while sometimes life is hard, I ALWAYS stick to my guns! All of my children have chores (we call them responsibilities) even my 2 1/2 year old! YES, I said 2, she gets to wipe the kitchen cabinets with a damp cloth! And ya know what people? When she sees everyone in the house off doing their responsibilities, she will get down right MAD if we forget to get her a cleaning cloth because she WANTS to help out too! Of course my kids aren’t perfect (whose are?) and they complain and forget etc.., but I don’t give in. How often has God just “given in” to us when we are resisting and complaining? Never, in my life! I tell my children ALL the time I love them soo very much, but I’m your mom first and then I can be your “friend”. I tell them I am accountable to God for my actions with them and I love Him and them soo much that I’m willing to make them mad or uncomfortable or whatever to do what is BEST for them! I talk to my kids, and not like they are stupid either (I see parents do that ALL the time, kids see right through it) We talk things out, so they can know “why” and no one bottles anything up. I’m not cold and millitant either (though I CAN be if needed!) I snuggle and play with my kids, act goofy, talk in funny accents etc.. There are few things that compare to how AWESOME I feel when people tell me how respectful and sweet and well behaved my children are :-) Sorry to ramble, this post just really struck a chord with me! In a good way ;-)

  21. says

    oh the encouragement. thank you for this – today – it is exactly what I needed (as my husband and I put to bed 3 “unhappy” children this evening [probably will be 4 soon, but so far the baby is happy 99% of the time] ).

    I’m a new reader of your blog and I love everything about it. your heart for Africa. your candidness. your love for Jesus. all of it.

    thank you.

  22. says

    I grew up thinking life was always fair. Imagine how hard it was, then, when I realized that sometimes bad things do happen to good people. Sometimes life isn’t fair. Because of how hard it has been for me to learn this lesson, I want to make sure my kids understand that trials are going to come. God doesn’t stop bad things from happening to us just b/c we love him. Thanks for this post. Very thoughtful:)

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