Sunday, July 10, 2011

How to Land Your Kid in Therapy

A relative of mine sent this thought-provoking article my way: How to Land Your Kid in Therapy.

As a parent of a 14-month-old, the article's topic is one that's on my mind a lot. Am I doing enough for my son? Am I doing enough to stimulate his mind? Am I playing with him enough? Or am I doing too much?

The article was both encouraging and discouraging. While you don't have to be "a perfect [parent] to raise a well-adjusted kid," trying to prevent a child from having "low self-esteem," or shielding them from all discomfort as a child can actually make adulthood harder. "By trying so hard to provide the perfectly happy childhood," the author writes, "we’re just making it harder for our kids to actually grow up." Good to know that when I don't rush over to my son when he takes a spill, I'm actually doing him a favor!

Then, though, the article takes a turn that goes beyond parenting:

“Happiness as a byproduct of living your life is a great thing,” Barry Schwartz, a professor of social theory at Swarthmore College, told me. “But happiness as a goal is a recipe for disaster.”

That might be the biggest takeaway in the whole article, and it's something I've been thinking about for a while. Happiness, I'm beginning to think, is overrated. I actually find that I'm most happy when I'm not trying to be happy, like when I'm helping others or getting neck-deep in hard work.

So I've stopped looking for rewards, and, instead, started looking for rewarding challenges. I teach for two online colleges, in addition to my day job as a high school teacher. I'm writing more. This year, I'm on track to finish two novels. I'm also a bit of a poetry nut, so I'm submitting more to lit mags. I try to take my family out to the zoo, to the children's museum, and to the pool whenever possible.

I'm busier than ever. But you know what? I just might be happy, too.

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