08/20/2012 05:04 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Don't "Raise Happy Kids!"


In a very unscientific study of Amazon's book pages, there are at least 13 books being published just in the second half of this year telling me how to raise happy kids. I could make them as happy as French children who apparently raise themselves happily on fresh vegetables and organic cheeses. I can cause happiness by making sure their clothing tags never rub the wrong way. It even turns out that there are secrets to making my baby happy before six weeks of life!

With all due respect to Dr. Harvey Karp, I don't need a book to know how to have the happiest toddler on the block. Heck, you've never met my toddler and you know how to make him the happiest kid on the block! It involves a Snickers bar and Cartoon Network. But if you give him those things, then I don't really want to live with him. And you probably don't want him in your kids' preschool class, do you?

Before you decide that I am heartless and ranting, please understand that I wish happiness for my children. I just don't want them -- or me -- to see their happiness as my responsibility. It's not!

Of course I am ranting (just not heartless). So what's my problem?

1. Have Ricki Lake and Dr. Phil taught us nothing, people? You can't make someone else happy! I don't care if they are babies or teens or adults. When books proclaim that being "the best parent possible" will lead to happy children, they set me up for failure.

2. Isn't it false advertising? If my kids spend their childhoods in a constant state of bliss, they are going to be shocked and betrayed by the sometimes awesome and sometimes awful realities of adulthood. Worse, they are going to be completely unprepared to find or make their own happiness as adults. And that is what I really want for them.

3. Remember the Constitution? I want to give my kids what the founding fathers promised us. Life -- check. Liberty -- well, we're preparing you for that, check back in with me later. Pursuit of happiness -- yes, that is what parents should provide.

God willing, my kids are going to spend many more decades on this earth than the two they will spend under my roof. Making them happy now, and leaving them totally unprepared to find and make their own happiness later is pretty selfish isn't it?

I owe it to my kids to forgo their some of their happiness now, and my own, in order to teach them the respect, responsibility and resilience they need to choose admirable goals and accomplish them.

These books may have excellent information inside. But we are shooting for the wrong target if we measure our success by the happiness of children.