We all want our children to be happy and successful. However, I have learned from my friend and mentor Dr. Shefali that these are not the key elements to focus on when raising our children.  You might be wondering why not, right? Who wouldn’t want their kids to be happy and successful and promote that in their homes?

This is where we need to peel the onion back, layer by layer and look at ourselves. What is it that we are looking for in our kids? Does their happiness and success have something to do with fulfilling our needs, desires, and expectations? For some, the answer might be yes.

I encourage you to look deeply within yourself and unpack your desires. Look at each one with a microscope of sorts to determine what it represents and why it is so important to you.

For example, I wanted my first child to go to college in the worst way. I was super excited about the college process, the opportunity to take a road trip and the experience that she would have on a school campus. This was all about me and not at all about her. My lesson and opportunity to look within for this particular ego-based need occurred when she refused to look at colleges and suggested that if I pushed her, ultimately it would be a waste of money.

When our children present us with opportunities to think about why we are pushing them to do something, we must reflect on it. Why was it so important for me to assume and demand that my daughter went to college right after high school? This was part of my conditioning. My dad always said that knowledge could never be taken away from you. I grew up in a family where continuing education was a priority. It was expected and seen as the only path to success.

So, if my daughter did not go to school, would she then not experience success? No! Success is defined by our children for our children, not by us. As they get older, they are creating their own definition of success – what it looks like and feels like for them, if we allow them to. We cannot know what success looks like for another human being. It is truly a personal experience. We could meet someone who drives a BMW, lives in a fancy home, has a vacation home, an executive position in a large corporation and flies in a private jet. That might look successful to us but is that success to the person experiencing it? One never knows.

Happiness is also a very personally defined experience. I remember someone saying to me many years ago, you should be happy because you have…. (fill in the blank). It could be anything. This person was pointing out all the material things that I had, thinking that was happiness. Happiness is not tied up in material things.

So, when you look at your children, keep in mind that happiness and success are for them to define. They need to own it and look for it in a way that serves them. What if we help them to develop resilience and the ability to advocate for themselves? This would really serve them in their lives.

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