Joyanne and her husband had traveled all over the country before settling in Holmes County, Ohio. Soon, they began driving a van for the Amish and became close friends with several Old Order families.
One night as we were discussing our mutual respect for the Plain community, Joyanne said, “I am convinced that Amish children are the happiest children in the world.”
I had to agree. From what I had seen, Amish children were the happiest, most contented, most competent, and the most cheerfully obedient children I’d ever seen and I wanted to know why. Was it merely the lack of television and video games that made them so content, or did the reasons go deeper?
My editor, a young mother raising two daughters in New York City, also wanted to know why. That desire to find out the secret behind the admirable behavior of Amish children led to me to many discussions with the Amish about their methods of parenting, which eventually culminated in a non-fiction Amish parenting book titled More Than Happy: The Wisdom of Amish Parenting.
I discovered many things during these interviews, but the most profound lesson came from a conversation I had with an Amish minister. We had discussed everything from the necessity of having family meals together to the methods with which they teach their children a solid work ethic. I was just about to close my notebook when my husband asked this final question:“What is your dream for your children?”
I silently ran through several possible answers an Amish person might give. I already knew the answer that most non-Amish parents would give—that they just wanted their children to be happy.
What the Amish minister said rocked me.
“My dream for my children,” he said, simply, “is that they become people of value.”
Another Amish man who was in the room nodded his head in agreement. That was his dream for his children, too.
The interview had been unemotional up to that point, but when I heard those words, I had to fight back the tears. I knew I had found my answer. The goal of an Amish parent is not to make their children happy. Their goal is to raise children who are so much more than happy.
Amish parents very deliberately teach their children how to be good workers, how to show compassion and respect for others, how to live lives of integrity, and how to be people of faith. The need for a parent to be a good example was often emphasized.
Many of us non-Amish parents, often without realizing what we’re doing, find ourselves prioritizing our children’s temporary happiness over helping them learn principles of permanent importance. Often we do this because it is just so much easier.
The Amish have learned one of the great secrets to life–persons with true value generally become very happy people.
Serena Miller and her minister/carpenter husband live in the same southern Ohio farming community where they both grew up. Three grown sons, two daughters-in-law, and three grandchildren live nearby. She was delighted when an Amish settlement formed not far from her home, and she has enjoyed getting to know some of the families.
Miller decided to get serious about writing fiction while she was working as a court reporter and found herself developing an overwhelming desire to compose a happy ending for every transcript she typed. She has now published six novels, including three Amish releases. She is the recipient of both a 2012 RITA Award and 2013 Carol Award.
Her second Amish novel, An Uncommon Grace, explored the world inside the most conservative Amish sect of all — the Swartzentrubers. The third novel, Hidden Mercies, was inspired by an Old Order Amish friend, a practicing midwife for nearly 40 years. Her latest book is More than Happy: The Wisdom of Amish Parenting, written with Paul Stutzman.
Purchase Serena’s books here.