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Are parents trying too hard to make their kids happy? And is that having the opposite effect?
In her Atlantic Magazine article, “How To Land Your Kids In Therapy,” author and mother Lori Gottlieb makes the case that “the obsession with our kids’ happiness may be dooming them to unhappy adulthoods.”
Gottlieb spoke with a number of therapists who were seeing 20-somethings who had experienced happy childhoods. They loved their parents, but they felt empty and anxious, and were afraid to make decisions.
“They were really struggling with day-to-day things that they just hadn’t experienced,” Gottlieb told Here & Now‘s Robin Young, “because their parents were doing everything for them, so they never had to experience challenge or failure.”
Gottlieb continues, “We need to be present for our kids, and we need to be attuned to our kids. But true attunement is not saying: ‘I know that this is difficult, but let’s figure out a solution.’ It’s: ‘What do you think about this, how do you think you can get through this.’ And we’re there to guide them.”
She tells of one parent whose child complained that he or she was bad at math, and the parent responded that the child just had a different learning style. She said many parents feel it’s not O.K. to be ordinary or to tell their kids they’re re not the best at something.
“We don’t want to tell them that because we feel like… that’s really damaging to their self-esteem,” Gottlieb said. “And in fact we want them to have genuine self-esteem.”
She said that will only come when parents are more honest with their children and prepare them for a life when they might not always succeed.