How To Ensure Your Child’s Pursuit of Happiness
In the Declaration of Independence, the least discussed and understood word is happiness, as in
“ We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
The right to “the pursuit of happiness” is taken today to affirm a right to chase after whatever makes us happy.
However, “Happiness” in the Declaration also included a significant call for us to pursue happiness through a higher means- by becoming a full and complete citizenry that understands its responsibilities to and for others.
So, “the pursuit of happiness” is something that is closer in meaning to occupying one’s life with the activities that provide for the community's overall well-being.
Understanding this interpretation of happiness explains the real purpose of school: to become a "good" person and becoming a more capable person than when you started.
School is nothing but a means of accomplishing this goal.
In the 20th century, the purpose of schooling was a political one: schools were the vessels that could help unite the huge immigrant populations to the USA under a common culture and set of beliefs.
Most children did not go to college, and most students graduated with a limited, but useful set of skills that allowed them entry into a middle class experience.
Today, schooling in its multiple forms is seen chiefly through an economic prism, and the need to prepare our children economically for the careers of the future, and its global competition.
Today, very few educators or parents have learning for its own sake as the endgame for their children.
In tandem with the economic goal, most Millennial and Gen Z parents would prefer that their children become capable of effective thinking, acting, relating, accomplishing, as well as the very best people they can be.
Yet, schools focus almost exclusively on kids' learning, and we ask, ad infinitum: “ How much are our kids learning?”
What we should be asking them is, “ What did you become as a result of your learning that you weren't before ? Have you moved in a positive direction to better yourself and society as a result of your learning?
That's the information we really want/need to know as concerned parents, citizens, and employers.
Rarely do we expect our K-12 kids to become anything besides good test-takers. We too often demand of them that they be consistently A students, while allowing their behaviors and contributions to be of a much lower quality.
How many adults finished school without becoming what they could have been? Some may have acquired knowledge and skills, and maybe even fortune through their education, but have accomplished anything lasting?
Young parents need to reverse this for it is through empathy and caring that our children will eventually achieve their pursuit of happiness.
In careers today, empathy and ‘people skills’ are in short supply, and ‘toxic work environment’ is a familiar phrase.
So, if schools are not doing this, despite the present noise about social-emotional learning, it falls on parents to find those avenues whereby their kids have the means to become the kinds of people we want them to be.
Your kids should be asking themselves: “ Who am I becoming? Have I become a better thinker? If so, in what ways? Am I able to do things I couldn't before? What is important to me and why? Can I relate comfortably to individuals, teams and virtual communities? What kind of person have I had to become to achieve those things I wish to be known for?
Can I make the world a better place?
It is your job to help them figure out the answers.
Parents have precious little time today, and the ultra focus on "learning" too often means that they have little time or energy left to focus on who their children are as individuals.
We shouldn't be surprised, then, if they become people we do not like or respect, or if we have concerns about their potential contributions to society.
Parents need to develop a plan for their child to help them to achieve their goals for them.
Without a plan, parents are leaving their child’s future happiness to the influence of society and a culture that is often toxic.
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