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Sometimes you just have to say 'no'

Some weeks ago, a friend of mine posted a comment on her Facebook page that kept wandering around in my mind for a couple of days, popping up all kinds of ideas for my column. She said in so many words that money can't buy happiness, but if you tell your kid you can't get what they ask for because there isn't any money, you then see the happiness walk out of them.

I totally understood what she meant - as a parent myself, have sometimes felt the same way. After thinking and thinking about it, I felt the need to respond her in the same way I have responded myself when those feelings of unfulfilled and failed parenting make their way into my mind. I replied to her: "Then tell your kids about all the other things that they do have and other children don't ... family, a house, food, health, a mother and a father who care and love them endlessly, friends ... so many things. Tell them about the many other blessings they do have and their happiness will come right back to their faces. Kids are very understanding and often times they appreciate the simple things in life more than adults do; it is us adults that feel the pressure of giving them all they ask for because we think that way we'll be the best parents that we can and, out of love, we want to please them in every possible way. But as long as you give them all they need - and that's not necessarily all they want - you're being a good parent. It is OK to say 'no' sometimes."

She never replied back; hopefully it's a sign that she felt some relief in my response. That day made me think about how many parents out there think they need to give their children everything they ask for to be perceived as good parents; or even worse, it made me think about how many children demand things thinking that if they don't get them, they parents are not good enough to them. The latter is usually their parent's fault; it is a parent's responsibility to teach their children they can't always get what they want when they want it; it is a parent's responsibility to say no sometimes and teach their children about understanding, conformity, priorities, and the difference between wanting something and needing something. But most important, it is a parent's responsibility to teach their children that happiness and success does not rely in how many material things we have, but rather how many blessings we have and how much love we feel in our hearts.

I know this is a hard lesson to teach our children; in fact, it's a hard lesson even for us adults. The culture of consumerism in the world around us makes teaching - or learning - that lesson almost a lost battle. We're continuously bombarded with advertising everywhere we go, bombarded with publicity of merchandising that often times - in fact, almost every time - we don't really need. Every time we watch TV, go to the movies, listen to the radio and even browse the Internet, we face the fictional messages of "the more you have the happier you are" or how "luxuries are not really luxuries anymore, you really need to have them."

Nowadays, according to all the advertisement, you need the most expensive and luxury car out there; of course a less expensive car will do pretty much the same and the repairs will cost probably half of the other one, but you will not look as good in that one - because, of course, your looks depend on the car you're driving, especially when JLo is the one driving, right? Or how you need the new tablet in the market, because the one you already have will do pretty much the same, except that this new one have a resolution a thousand times better which, of course, you definitely need. Or how you definitely need the newest cell phone, because the one you have of course it makes phone calls and everything you need in a phone, but the new one you can talk to it, and you definitely need to talk to your phone.

Now, if these are some of the continuously bombarding we face as adults and it's hard for us to resist thinking that in fact we need those things, just imagine how hard is for a child to resist having the newest Nintendo or PSP, or the newest clothes designed - or advertised - by the hottest pop stars or Disney artists. They want to have what their friends have and they want to look just like their favorite artists; they don't realize it's advertising, they think they actually need those things, then and only then they will be happy.

It's our responsibility - and moreover our duty - as parents to make it clear for them that, even though it would be nice to have some of those things, it's not a real need and their happiness should never rely on whether they have it or not. Happiness should come from within, when we finally realize and appreciate all that we have.

Being sad, upset or frustrated for what we don't have, take away from enjoying and appreciate what we have. Often times, those who are really happy are not those who have many things, but those who are glad for what they have. I can't remember where exactly I read these words, but I can always remember them: " It is not happy who has more, but who needs less." Let's teach our children to appreciate and enjoy more what they have and to "need" less. Let's teach them that even though money can buy a lot of things, it can't buy happiness, because happiness can't really be bought, you can't get it in a store, only in your heart.

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