The Importance of Being a Happy Parent
by Dale Easley
22 May 2003
This summer (2003) my older daughter will be six. My younger is three. As I've
written about elsewhere (Click
here.), this year has been particularly tough. I've worked through some
things have kept me awake when I'd prefer to have been sleeping. Still, I'm
glad to be finally making some progress, because I believe one of the most
important things I can do as a parent is to be happy.
First, let me say that happiness is not something you can fake, especially not
with a kid. They may not yet have the intellectual capacity of a smart dog, but
they have amazing capabilities in tuning into your emotional state. If what you
say doesn't match your emotions, they spot it. For example, I've seen numerous
instances of kids pulling back from you if you are trying too hard to be their
friend. (In that way, kids are like cats.) The kids (and cats) recognize that
you are in it for yourself, not true friendship.
Kids' abilities to pick up on hidden cues are what makes being a happy parent so
important. Basically it comes down to this: If you aren't happy, your kid is
going to assume that world is not a very good place. They may also go a step
farther and assume that the reason you are unhappy is something they did.
Pretty soon, they're feeling down about both the world and themselves. Happy
people tend to treat each other better, enjoy companionship, and be a lot more
pleasant to be around. And no, I don't believe you have to be miserable in
order to be creative.
What can you do if you aren't happy and faking it won't work? The first step is
to admit the problem. Look it square in the mirror. If your unhappiness is
severe enough, get help. It's the best thing you can do for your family. On
the other hand, your unhappiness may be a message from a deeper part of yourself
telling you that you are on the wrong track or, at least, in danger of derailing.
In the latter case, there is no substitute for taking the time to listen to
yourself, your inner desires and longings. I know life is hectic, but partly
that's because we stay busy to keep from listening to ourselves. Find the
I've read many self-help books through the years, and a few have been worth
their price. One that stands out in my memory is Happiness is a Serious
Problem by Dennis Prager. The author's main thesis is that happy people
have two dominant characteristics: a goal that they are working toward, and a
sense of gratitude. For those of you working toward a degree at UNO, at least
that one goal should be clear to you. As you work toward it, take a bit of time
to be grateful to the people who've helped you get to this point. Maybe you
could send them a postcard or something. (Yeah, I'm a corny guy.) You'll be
surprised---writing the note will often do you as much good as it does the
recipient. Regardless of how you do it, take the time to be grateful. You'll
be happier, and you'll be a better parent.