Happiness of Pursuit

What do parents want most for their children?  Happiness!  This single desire, of over 65% of all parents, crosses all cultural, ethnic, age, religious, and sexual orientation boundaries.

The challenge? The challenge is to understand what real, lasting happiness is.  Where does it come from?  True, sustaining happiness cannot be bestowed on another; it must rise from with-in.  It’s journey of self-discovery is messy, not always happy and found only in the happiness of pursuit.

“… It is as if we are on a quest to get it back, and yet the more we focus on our own personal happiness the more it eludes us. In fact, it is only while we are otherwise engaged…you know; focused, absorbed, inspired, communicating, discovering, learning, dancing, for heaven sake, that we experience happiness as a byproduct, a side effect. Oh no, we should concern ourselves not so much with the pursuit of happiness but rather the happiness of pursuit.”  ~ From the movie Hector and the Search for Happiness; spoken by the actor Christopher Plummer

Words such as acknowledge, wait, patience, and slow down are invaluable parenting words in this modern advanced technological and rapidly changing age to remind us that our children need us to be present in all ways – emotionally, mentally, physically, spiritually, and intellectually.  There is another equally, if not more important word, for these modern times. One that will help lead our children to the path of “Happiness of Pursuit”.  That is the word WHY?

Why is my child behaving that way?

Why am I responding that way?

Why am I not happy with…in respect to my child?

Why is…. pressuring my child to….?

Raising children has its many challenges.  We cannot give what we don’t have and there is no formal nor required training for being a parent.  Raising children requires “big picture” understanding while we are still involved in trying to understand the pieces.  Just as we think we figured something out everything changes. We try to understand what we don’t understand, and find answers to questions we don’t know how to ask.  And we do all this while not consciously aware of the very human interference known as: social influence.

Asking “why” questions, seeking to understand the individual, will help us become more consciously aware of, who we are, who our children are, and the pull of social influence; helping us become better leaders, advocates, and supporters for our children.

You may have heard the saying “nature and nurture”.  Unlocking the meaning of these words will provide the first insight into where to look for the information we need to ask the right question so we have a better chance of uncovering the answers that will lead us in the right direction.

“…If we’re starting with the wrong question, if we don’t understand the cause, then even the right answers will always steer us wrong…eventually”  ~ Simon Sinek, author of the book: Start With Why

Nature is biologically based.  It flows from the combination of the DNA our parents gave us.  It is our gift from nature at birth.  Flowing from nature is the determination of our raw temperament, dominance factor, type of intelligence, and pattern of human development.

Nurture on the other hand are the environmental influences; a combination of our experiences, culture, and play that, over time can teach us how to modify and control our nature on one hand while awaking a path to happiness from with-in as we engage in pursuit of what attracts our attention.

Everything in life is interconnected.  Nature and nurture influence each other and the results are expressed in behavior.  Parents, children, and other environmental factors are constantly sending messages back and forth.  A term was coined by Dr. Chess, M.D., and Dr. Thomas M.D., to indicate how well these interacting influences matched the needs of the child.  This compatibility or lack thereof is called “Goodness of Fit”.

“Goodness of Fit” feeds the emotional connection between the child and parent.  A child is born believing they are a part of the mother.  In time they discover they are their own person and with that comes joy and fear, emotional stability and instability, and the frustration of desiring to be independent and yet needing to be attached.  Encouraging healthy emotional attachment frees the child to pursuit their desire for autonomy and connection to self.

When a child connects to self, with the help of invested adults, they learn how they learn, discover their own interests, finds their strengths and use them to assist and work around the areas in which they are challenged.  As they grow in understanding of themselves they are able to connect more deeply with communities that support their interests, strengths, and challenges.

It is through understanding themselves and developing healthy emotional connections that they will find their own happiness of pursuit.  But, this long and very human journey requires leadership.  Leadership that a child will freely bestow on an adult if they feel the adult is trustworthy with their emotional needs and seeks to understand first.

Listen to your child’s behavior.  Ask and seek understanding to “why” questions.  Answers to these questions will create connection between you and your child.  If you are willing to do this, your child will teach you how to be the leader they need freeing them to discover the joy of their “Happiness of Pursuit”.

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