America's Youth Drowning In Happiness

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Cooper and Keitel went on to write "I Just Want My Kids To Be Happy! Why you shouldn't say it, why you shouldn't think it, what you should embrace instead." The book describes 10 ways the happiness creed hurts kids and parents alike.

What should parents emphasize if not happiness? To answer that question, the authors reviewed decades of happiness research and found eight ingredients in people's lives that reliably predict who is happy and who is not, including a sense of gratitude, closeness to others, and an optimistic outlook.

"There's so much parents can do to plant the seeds of the eight ingredients when kids are young," Cooper says, "while they sit around the dinner table together or chauffeur the kids back and forth on weekends. Our book is really a roadmap of practical suggestions, things parents can say and do to aim their children toward authentically happy lives."

But giving up their allegiance to the happiness creed, he argues, is the first step that parents need to take.

The pressure on kids to be happy is everywhere, according to Keitel, the director of family education at an independent school in Chicago. "It's an unrealistic expectation and burden we lay on our sons and daughters," he said.

"Parents also pay a price, running themselves ragged or going into debt trying to keep their kids happy," Keitel added, "and then they blame themselves when the kids still don't seem happy enough."

A member of the psychiatry department at Kaiser Permanente in San Francisco for 18 years, Cooper worries that the sharp rise in the use of antidepressant medication among young people often reinforces the message that "you ought to be happier than you are."