Jennifer Senior on a New Script for Parents

The one mantra no parent ever questions is, “All I want is for my children to be happy.” And don’t get me wrong: I think happiness is a wonderful goal for a child. But it is a very elusive one. Happiness and self-confidence, teaching children that is not like teaching them how to plow a field. It’s not like teaching them how to ride a bike. There’s no curriculum for it. Happiness and self-confidence can be the byproducts of other things, but they cannot really be goals unto themselves. A child’s happiness is a very unfair burden to place on a parent. And happiness is an even more unfair burden to place on a kid. […]

Absent having new scripts, we just follow the oldest ones in the book – decency, a work ethic, love — and let happiness and self-esteem take care of themselves. I think if we all did that, the kids would still be all right, and so would their parents, possibly in both cases even better.”

Jennifer Senior