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Dr. Hallowell on Childhood Happiness: Happy Kids Make Happy Adults

Edward Hallowell, M.D., a child and adult psychiatrist and New York Times bestselling author has authored 18 books on various psychological topics, including attention deficit disorder, the power of the human connection, childhood happiness, methods of forgiving others, dealing with worry, and managing excessive busyness.

Disney Dads spoke with Dr. Hallowell about his book, “The Childhood Roots of Adult Happiness,” in which he outlines a five-step plan for promoting successful learning and lifelong joy in children. Here are the steps:

  1. Connection
  2. Play
  3. Practice
  4. Mastery
  5. Recognition

Says Hallowell, “Your kids get only one childhood, and you get only one ‘dadhood.’ All the advice in my book is for both moms and dads, but, unfortunately, I would say that dads are probably less likely to follow it.

“These are huge generalizations, but I think dads underappreciate how important the time they spend with their children is. Dads tend to take their careers too seriously. And, generally, moms take ‘momming’ much more seriously than dads take ‘dadding.’

Giving my kids the happy childhood I didn’t have has wiped it all clean. It’s repairing, restorative.

“If only dads could understand that being a parent is not a duty but an opportunity. If you put in the time with your children, particularly in the years between zero and 15, it’s not only a gift for them but a gift for you. And don’t feel like you have to be Mr. Perfect Dad. I certainly am not, and yet I would rate myself an A+ dad. If you’re spending time with your kids and having fun, it’s almost certain you’re doing it right.”

Boiled down to their most basic essence, the five steps hinge on what Hallowell calls a “connected childhood.”

“Make a resolution that you will put connection first and foremost in your child’s life. Where you find connection you find good things happening. Where you find disconnection you find bad things happening. Connection, at its core, is love. Connection is free, available to everyone, and infinite in supply. I call it ‘the other vitamin C.’

“The minute you become a parent for the first time, you change forever. You enter into a permanent state of psychosis. You fall madly in love. You suddenly become willing and eager to do crazy things, like throw away all your time, money, and dignity. That crazy love a parent has for his child is the spinal column of a connected childhood. Honor it and believe in it. Build your life around it.

“Nobody on their death bed says ‘I wish I had spent more time at work,’ but many people say ‘I wish I had spent more time with my kids’.”

He also adds that if you didn’t have a particularly happy childhood, it’s especially rewarding to give your own children a connected childhood.

“I myself had a very crazy childhood,” says Hallowell, “and giving my kids the happy childhood I didn’t have has wiped it all clean. It’s repairing, restorative.

“To watch my kids have this experience is a gift I receive every single day. And it really cancels out a lot of the pain I felt when I was growing up. It doesn’t remove the pain, but it negates its power over me. And I really forgive the people in ways I couldn’t before. So as I grow myself, I am able to let go of whatever resentment I might have had. And I can honestly say I feel no resentment about the things that happened to me that shouldn’t have.”

For more on Dr. Hallowell, visit his website.

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