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The Simple Secret to a Happier Life

If your child isn't what you expected... continued...

It's natural to expect your kids to take after you, says Susan Davis, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist in New York City. "But wanting children to be exactly like you is narcissistic," she says. Plus, by trying to make our kids into our clones — just to stroke our egos or fulfill our unresolved ambitions — we're stunting ourselves. "Expecting your children to make your life whole isn't fair to them or you," Davis says. "It's your responsibility to discover the resources within yourself to help make yourself happy."

How to Let Go

For a long time, Leonard believed her girls' behavior reflected poorly on her — a situation she was eager to change. "I worked with them, gave them pep talks, even met with their principal and teachers about getting them to play and not be so bashful," she recalls. Nothing worked, however, and Leonard gradually found peace when she began to accept her daughters for the smart, funny, yet quiet people they are. "I was making myself crazy over their shyness," she says. "So I reminded myself that my girls are not me, and that's okay. They're good, kind girls — and that's more important than how many friends they have on the playground."

When you catch yourself wishing your son or daughter could be different (Why is homework such a struggle for him? Why is she such a princess? Why is he so aggressive?), try to see things from your child's point of view, says Davis. How would you feel if someone continually pestered you about being an accountant when you really wanted to play the piano, or pushed you to be more gleeful when your disposition was naturally serious? "And ask yourself, Is being me the best thing in the world? and Am I trying to get my child to accomplish things that I myself couldn't? " says Davis.

Letting your kid just be herself also helps you ditch the nagging feeling that you've somehow failed as a parent, and gets rid of the guilt about your child not measuring up to some absurd standard, adds Davis. And without all those negative emotions dragging you down, you can focus on getting to know your amazing, one-of-a-kind child even better.

If you're not where you thought you'd be at 30...35...40...

When I turned 40, I took stock of my life — and consequently freaked out because so much of it wasn't going according to plan. I was sure I'd have written a novel or two by then. Not happening. I'd always pictured myself living in a house straight from the pages of a Pottery Barn catalog; instead, my husband and I had recently bought a 100-year-old fixer-upper. And the financial stability I'd hoped for? Forget it. With remodeling costs, we were deeper in debt than ever.

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