Ten years ago I began to regularly visit Brenda, a widow. Of her six adult children, five would have nothing to do with her--one of whom was in prison for trying to kill her--and one, Audrey, spoke to her only when she wanted money to buy drugs. Audrey had abandoned her two children--Carl, age 6, and Tim, age 4--to be raised by Brenda.
Brenda complained to me that her ungrateful witch of a daughter--Audrey--was always coming around for money, but when I suggested that she not fuel Audrey's drug habit, she didn't listen. I also suggested that her yelling at Audrey in front of her two grandchildren probably wasn't good for their emotional health, but again she didn't listen. So Carl and Tim were raised in an environment filled with conflict.
Carl was doing terribly in school, but Brenda said, "I just can't do anything with 'im. He won't listen to me." So Carl didn't do his homework and fell progressively further behind in school every year. Neither child was given any responsibilities around the house, so they grew up believing they were entitled to do whatever they wanted. Their sense of entitlement and victimhood led to frequent conflicts between them, but when I told Brenda that their quarrels weren't healthy for them, she insisted that they were just being boys. It was cute, she said.
When Carl and Tim were six and four, respectively, I said, "Brenda, if you keep ignoring the loving and teaching these kids need--if you keep allowing the house to be run by conflict and without responsibility--the day will come when you'll call me and tell me that first one and then the other kid is in jail, and there won't be a thing I can do about it."
She ignored me, of course, and the condition of the children continued in a predictable fashion. Months ago Brenda called and told me that Carl was in the youth detention center, charged with four felonies. He's now been sentenced to five years of imprisonment, and Brenda is both grief stricken and mystified about how all this could have happened.
Although I accurately predicted what happened to Carl--and will almost certainly happen to Tim in the near future--I did not have a crystal ball. I'm not a magician, but I can tell you with fair confidence what will happen in the future if I have enough information about the past and present. I know, for example, that if a ball falls off the edge of a table, the laws of gravity decree that the ball will fall at a rate of about 32 feet/sec/sec, with minor influence from atmospheric pressure and humidity.
The Laws of Happiness are just as exacting and predictive. If we ignore love and responsibility in the raising of a child, the resulting pain will cause the child to react in a number of ways that are high unproductive and mostly predictable. If, on the other hand, we consistently love and teach a child, he will be free to exercise his native creativity, desire to be productive, and inclination to connect with and love others. We need to see more clearly what we and our children are believing and doing, so we can see where those perspectives and behaviors are taking us.