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Can I Make My Child Happy?

Can I make my child happy? As a mom, how much am I responsible for the happiness of my children? Can anyone make someone else happy?

The tendency to confuse faithfulness with responsibility runs through my DNA, popping up in home and ministry. Years ago, I put together a Saturday conference for the women in my Sunday School class and placed a notice in the church bulletin inviting others to attend. 

When lots of women registered, I began to worry. What were they expecting? 

Because I felt responsible for their happiness, I didn’t want anyone to come with high expectations and leave disappointed. Yet, I cannot control what another makes of a situation. Each of us chooses our mood and our attitude. One person will experience a disappointing event and still find value. Another will be handed an experience equivalent to a Disney E-ticket ride and single out something to complain about.

Do you carry an over-developed sense of responsibility? When I feel overwhelmed, I usually discover I’m feeling responsible for something beyond my control. 

Is Making My Child Happy My Goal Or My Desire?

In order to help us understand where our responsibilities end and other people’s begin, some thought leaders have delineated between a goal and a desire.


A goal is something you want, and you control the means to reach it.


A desire is something you want, but you don’t control the variables to reach it. You need the cooperation of other people and/or circumstances to achieve the desired result.

For example, let’s say you plan a picnic for your family. You get up early to shred cheese for their favorite sandwiches. You hum as you slice your homemade bread. Imagining your family enjoying your special effort brings a smile as you pack a lovely quilt.

An hour before you leave, your son’s friend calls to invite him to the pool. He’s spent time with his friend but not with the family. You say, “Next time. Today is family time.” Disappointment oozes out of his pores. His body comes to the picnic, but not his heart.

At lunch you hand your daughter her sandwich on a paper plate decorated with her favorite cartoon character. She whines, “I don’t like this bread.”

At least you have homemade chocolate chip cookies.

Your son grabs the cookies, the ones you stayed up to midnight to bake, and says, “Mom, they’re moving!”

To your dismay, the seal wasn’t tight. Ants have joined the picnic and are marching through your cookies.

Did you fail? Was your effort a complete waste? That depends.

Is It Your Responsibility to Make Your Child Happy?

If your goal was to make them happy, then yeah, you failed. No one’s happy. But if your goal was to love your family, then, well done! You’re a success.

Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls,” (Matthew 11:28-29 NIV).

Jesus’ assignments aren’t heavy burdens when we yoke ourselves to Him. He carries the bulk of the weight. He’s gentle. If we learn from Him, we’ll be gentle with ourselves. Any goal that requires someone else’s cooperation can be blocked by those people. God doesn’t hold us responsible for what we can’t control. He asks us to be faithful—to Him.

God doesn’t measure success by how things appear but by how we live. When I realized the source of my anxiety concerning the conference was rooted in feeling I had to assure everyone who attended felt happy, I let the anxiety go. God asked me to be faithful to do my part in the power of the Holy Spirit. The results were up to Him. 

I Can’t Make My Child Happy

One look at my son and I knew he’d had a terrible day. At lunch, he opened his ketchup packet and the red sauce squirted across the table and startled a fellow kindergartener. She yelled, drawing all eyes onto my self-conscious child. He turned aside to hide his tears.

My son’s distress wrenched my heart. Having just moved to our fourth state in four years, our children slept on floor mattresses as we waited for our house to be finished and the rest of our belongings to arrive. I wanted to protect him, but I couldn’t tag along to school. 

After tucking Brant into bed, I brought my own concerns to God. He reminded me of David and Goliath. Teenaged David confronted a giant that intimidated seasoned soldiers. What made him so brave? Conflict. The life experience of protecting his sheep from wild beasts taught David to trust God. Likewise, Brant’s battle provided an opportunity for him to grow stronger.

At breakfast the next morning, I reminded Brant of David and Goliath. I told him he didn’t go to school alone. The Lord Jesus stuck with him. I don’t know which encouraged him more, the story or my new attitude, but he straightened his small shoulders and left ready to face the day—in the strength of the Lord.

God’s word reframed my thinking. I can not protect my son from every mishap. I can not make my child happy. But I can empower my child to be strong and courageous. I can help him see the options he has when choosing his mood and his attitude. 

Do you feel responsible for your child’s happiness? Do you exhaust yourself doing and doing to win your child’s smile, make your child happy, and encourage a good mood? Take a breath and let that impossible responsibility go.


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Find more from author Debbie W. Wilson at

Debbie W. Wilson helps women give themselves a break so they can enjoy grace-filled lives. Her books include Little Faith, Big God, Give Yourself a Break and Little Women, Big God. She and her husband, Larry, founded Lighthouse Ministries, a nonprofit biblical counseling, coaching, and Bible study ministry. Find free resources to refresh your faith at


Meet PeggySue

We’ve heard of soccer moms and stage mothers. I’m a writer who trailers my kids and horses across the nation. My Apple computer, fondly christened MacBeth, is the essential I bring along.