If you want your child to have a high sense of self-esteem, don’t go out of your way to praise her; go out of your way to make sure she experiences mastery in many different ways. We want to be teaching life skills, not providing mere entertainment. 

The Childhood Roots of Adult Happiness   Edward Hallowell

Many parents say they want their child to be happy. What makes people happy- entertainment or having a sense of competence, or both?

To make our children feel happy, we often provide entertainment. We take them to Chuck E Cheese’s, go out to the movies, provide jugglers at birthday parties, etc. There is a place for all of that, of course. However, happiness or perhaps contentment can be achieved in other ways as well.

To focus on a project and eventually master it can bring a sense of competency and fulfillment. If a child helps make dinner, for example, he may complain while doing it, but afterwards, he feels good about himself for helping and he also has learned new skills while doing so.

What if you were sent to the Bahamas for the rest of your life?  It would be set up so that you would never have to cook, clean, pay bills or lift a finger in any way the rest of your life. You would always be taken care of and entertained by others. You would probably have a blast at first and then eventually get dissatisfied.

Children feel joy and fulfillment by doing things and by actively participating in projects instead of only passively being the recipients of entertainment.