MOST PARENTS I WORK WITH are genuinely loving, caring people who want the very best for their kids. Some have gone to extraordinary lengths to become parents; others had this greatness thrust upon them. Whatever your path, I ask you to take a moment to consider what you really hope to accomplish as parents. What traits do you want your kids to develop?

When I discuss this issue in my workshops, I usually get responses that include traits such as responsible, independent, successful, resilient, confident, respectful, self-aware, and self-disciplined. There is one trait I always like to include as well—emotionally connected. Most parents want their kids to share a bond of love and warmth with them and with other members of the family. But where does happiness fit in? Who is responsible for their happiness? This is a more complex and important question than it may seem.

Let’s say your seven-year-old is disappointed that he can’t go to the park because it started thundering and lightning. You offer suggestions of other things you can both do and plan another time to go to the park. Your son, however, starts crying and yelling, “It’s not fair.” Your attempts to engage him in other activities are met with anger and resistance. He is still arguing that he should get to play in the rain—a situation you have determined is unwise and unsafe.

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