August 3

It’s the Struggle

August 3, 2016

Parenting

I received a call from Samantha, the mother of Dylan, a four-year-old who tested his mother’s patience every day by refusing cooperation, running away in stores, and overall making Samantha’s life difficult. “I’ve reached the end of my rope,” she said. “This kid never stops misbehaving. Everything is a big drama with him. I’m exhausted.”

I described what she could do, and within a few hours Dylan fought against her as she tried to buckle him into his child car seat. Following my directions, she firmly pushed him down on the adult car seat, pinning his arms against his body and holding him relatively immobile.

Children really hate having their movement restricted, so Dylan kicked and struggled mightily against Samantha’s restraint. “You’re hurting me,” he screamed.

Without the slightest look of concern on her face—my most important instruction to her—she maintained her grip and said, “No, I’m not hurting you. You’re hurting yourself by fighting against me. If you hold still, it won’t hurt at all.”

Samantha’s being calm was intriguing to Dylan, who immediately quit struggling. When the pain stopped, he was clearly impressed that his mother could predict the future like that. Who could resist a mother with such superpowers, eh? So Dylan meekly allowed himself to be buckled into his seat.

This is a good parenting lesson, but the point I want to make here is that most adults never learn the emotional equivalent of the lesson that Dylan absorbed. In order for us to be happy, we must obey the Laws of Happiness, which—like a car seat or a wise parent—do restrict the use of some harmful behaviors. Of themselves, these laws never hurt us, but if we struggle against them, we can make the discomfort significant. If we submit to the laws that govern happiness, on the other hand, we become recipients of all the happiness abundantly available to us.

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