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“I Just Want You To Be Happy” How this phrase may actually make your teen miserable

Updated: May 19

Ah The Good Ole Days

A diverse family in multicolored shirts with an adoptive child
Our Family in front of Pizza and Pipes in Ellenton Florida

I can remember when my kids were small, doing everything we could to create moments of joy for them. Whether it was those iconic trips to that crooked casino run by a mechanical 6 foot rat, (a.k.a. Chuck E. Cheese) or I can recall my wife’s many trips on Wednesday to take the kids to the McDonald’s play place. Living in Florida, we even had easy access to Disney World and all the accoutrements therein. One thing is for certain, do you what you may, create whatever environment you care to, they are going to find someway to be unhappy. “Can I get an amen?“ So, what in the world is that about?

I Just Want You To Be Happy

I heard this recently and it caught me off guard more than I had expected. It wasn't that I hadn't heard it before, it's jut that I suddenly realized the emptiness of that statement as a goal for parenting. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with that desire to see our kids be happy. The fact of the matter is, it means you’re a great parent. However, that should never be the goal of our parenting.

“Huh? What do you mean, Pastor Mark?“

I’m glad you asked, hear me out. If the goal of our parenting is to make our kids happy, we are setting ourselves and also them, up for failure. There is no possible way that we can keep them in a constant state of happiness, nor can we shield them from hardship or every danger that might threaten their happiness. So why is it so hard for us to grasp that happiness isn’t a realistic goal….for ANY of us?

“Do not let your happiness depend on something you may lose… only (upon) the Beloved who will never pass away.” (CS Lewis)

Think About It This Way

Even though parents in your circles may tell you directly or indirectly that they just want their kids to be happy, this should not be true for the believer. The goals of our parenting should be much different. Thew scriptures remind us that "happiness" is fleeting and also subjective, hence the trip to Chuck E. Cheese where those two won’t stop fighting and the little one is crying...again. As adults, we have discovered that what makes me happy now, will not make me happy tomorrow, or in the end, may not make me happy at all.

For example: sometimes, what I feel might make me happy, is to punch the person in front of me who is acting in a way that I do not appreciate. However, we know that in the end, that will end very poorly for that person and also for me as well.

What would have made me happy as a young teenager was eating another long john, after I had already eaten two. However, because childhood diabetes is real and I did not want to end up weighing 300 pounds as a 12 year old, I avoided that version of happiness as well. OK, you get the point. Kids and teens don’t know and even sometimes I do not know, what will make me happy. So, if happiness is not the point of our parenting, what is the point?

What Is The Point?

I am glad that you asked. In a nutshell, the point is Godly character. This will last our teens, much longer than temporary happiness, a long, john donut, or even a broken fist from punching someone or some thing, because we thought that would bring happiness.

It is Godly character that informs our lives on which things we need to focus to have lasting joy. In fact, if the true goal of our parenting is Godly character, the end result will not just be joy, but eternal life!

This…is a worthwhile and worthy goal. To teach our kids to live their lives, in such a way that they attain eternal life through a relationship with Jesus Christ that is in formed by God‘s word. This is why we are reminded, “You shall teach [the word] diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.” Deuteronomy 6:7

One of the greatest joys I had as a parent was sitting at their bedside and praying with them and listening or talking to them. Kids need a Godly voice in their lives as they lay down, their little brains race with anxiety or thoughts about their day. “I could have or should have said…” plays in their minds just like ours and we have an opportunity to guide that towards Christ. It’s not too late. I’ve discovered that kids are chatty at night (especially when they are younger and supposed to be going to sleep). Fight the urge to be annoyed, remember, that show can be streamed later and commercial breaks are a thing of the past thanks to cable TV, no need to rush away from their bedside. Your greatest legacy is there in the Toy Story 2 pajamas and they are a captive audience.

I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth. 3 John 1:4

Since we know that happiness comes and goes, the one thing that means most, and will bring the greatest amount of joy, is watching them grow as they go through difficult experiences rather than just trying to avoid them. We have learned, that are as we go through difficult experiences we grow in our faith as well. “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:2-4

So, instead of telling our kids “I want whatever makes you happy”, instead, tell them things like: We want to do everything we can to help you to make Godly decisions so that you can grow your character.

We want to support you, so that you know that you are loved beyond measure. we want to help you to make decisions that will bring you long, lasting joy, and help you to grow.

These are ways of helping our children and teens to develop the kind of Godly character that will carry them through trials, yes, but also help them to develop lasting Joy that no matter the circumstances, they can find true Peace and Joy in Christ. Teaching them that our faith is NOT conditional on our “happiness” but on the reality of our Hope in Christ and our Eternal Life beyond this temporary earth to an everlasting home in which there will be no pain, no tears, and no regret.

“The beauty of Christian parenting is that, as we teach our children the things of God, we grow spiritually ourselves.” #AdrienSegal

One Last Thing To Think About

One last thing that we teach our kids about life when we dwell on happiness is that of being conditional. Since being happy is contingent on getting our own way, what happens when that doesn’t occur? There you are at what is supposed to be the HAPPIEST MOMENT in your parenting, the pinnacle of planning and saving up for that trip in what is supposed to be a week of bliss…and you have a crying kid WHO assures you that the key to their ultimate happiness are those ____________, there inside the gift shop. True Joy is found in having gratitude no matter the circumstance and ESPECIALLY in the Magic Kingdom. Teaching Godly character means that we focus not on the conditional state of happiness but gratitude at having the opportunity. This is why Paul reminds us: Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18) This doesn’t mean that they will be perfect little angels, but the assurances we get from teaching God’s Word to them can be a wonderful place to start (Proverbs 22:6). Have a blessed day. -Pastor Mark

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