So we all want our kids to be happy right? Raising happy kids is no easy feat. How can we give our kids the best shot at deep and lasting happiness?
Most parents will say ‘I just want my kids to be happy’. But this will often mean different things to different people.
For many parents, they can simply be referring to that instant or temporary gratification that seems to be the accepted and normal definition of happiness, particularly when we are referring to our kids.
Let’s face it, for most, keeping your kids happy usually involves giving them what they want so that us as parents can get some peace.
Many people also apply this happiness definition to themselves. I’m happy when I …. (fill in doing word or getting something we want). Things make people ‘happy’. Achieving or experiencing things outside of themselves.
So happiness has become a word which implies feeling temporary pleasure or gratification.
For other parents, seeing their kids happy might be more about pushing for them to achieve certain things in their future which we believe will make them happy.
Again something outside themselves is believed to be needed to achieve this feeling of being happy.
Let’s compare this version of ‘happiness’ to more of an internal state, cultivated through years of love and care. A state that becomes relatively unshakable, or at least doesn’t depend on certain outside factors to maintain it.
I propose that this version of happiness is actually the REAL deal!
So let’s start by exploring the meaning of real happiness before we look at the essential factors to sewing those seeds in our children, watering & nurturing them, and allowing them to blossom!
What is true happiness?
So for me personally, when I refer to happiness, I’m referring to something more holistic perhaps. When a person is holistically well, they’re not just physically well but mentally, emotionally and spiritually well.
And this will actually generate TRUE joy and happiness.
Sometimes my toddler will just seem to erupt with spontaneous squeals of joy for no apparent reason. It is REAL, unbound and bubbles over!
It’s a happiness that is there no matter the circumstance. Not a happiness you can fake or ‘choose’. Nor does it compare to the pleasure & gratification of the short-term hit.
This short-term hit is kind of like the junk food version in comparison.
Why is this important for children?
The statistics over the last 15 years on our kids mental and emotional wellbeing are alarming:
– 1 in 5 children has a mental health issue.
– There’s been a significant increase in teen depression and a 100% increase in suicide in children age 10-14 years.
Wow! Now that is some pretty firm evidence right there, that something is going very wrong with the way our kids are being raised & supported in today’s society.
And as painful as it is to admit, the problem starts in the very early years with US, the parents.
So how can we help our kids?
WE create our child’s emotional, mental and physical environment.
We are the ones who help our children develop the essential ingredients to REAL happiness.
What are they?
– Strong sense of self
– Faith in their own ability
– Sense of connection & openness with others
– Clearly defined & healthy boundaries with others.
– Connection to their true passions and what makes their hearts sing!
Now, these are qualities a person usually has to work hard at, and often later in life, after going through enough pain & suffering to develop the desire to work at it.
But what if we can support our children to develop these qualities within themselves right from the start?
Well, it’s a big question, but I do believe there are some things we can do to give our kids the best shot at deep and lasting happiness.
Here are my Top 10:
All humans, big or small, have FREE WILL
We were designed to have it. And because of this a child will innately develop a sense of wanting choice & power, from around 18 months or even earlier (ours seemed to from about 14 months!).
Children will naturally begin to resist our efforts to control them from this time, and quite rightly too. No one likes to be controlled!
Our job is to guide our children, not control them, so we need to honor their free will.
There are ways to give them autonomy and choice as we guide them and set safe and healthy boundaries.
Seek to know who they are rather than to mold them into who you think they should be.
Children are individuals with their own unique personality. When a child feels we don’t truly want to know them it creates a deep sense of emptiness.
And when a child feels they need to be someone else to please a parent, they lose a sense of connection to who they really are.
And this could be a theme song for today’s youth.
Allow natural and reasonable consequences.
Don’t overprotect them from natural consequences and small failures. This helps them develop essential life skills.
Teach responsibility rather than entitlement.
Entitlement is also a theme of our current youth and is going to create some very unhappy adults.
Be emotionally available and show empathy
What an incredible gift to a child – the non-judgmental presence of a primary caregiver.
I learned the power of empathy whilst working with children who have extreme behavioral issues & trauma-based behavior.
Empathy is like magic.
Try this phrase next time your child is having a melt-down …
‘You really want/wanted … ‘ that toy, that ice-cream, to climb up on that high wall, … insert any of the many things a child feels they need or their world will crumble.
Actually, they are just having a very honest & unfiltered emotional release.
Empathy both creates a closer connection to you, and validates their feelings, giving them permission to just feel what they are really feeling.
And this is like a miraculous healing balm.
Connection before correction
Unfortunately, most of us were disciplined through inciting fear, so this is the way we naturally parent. But fear destroys trust.
The child may be obedient to some degree but they’ll shut down and put walls up. These walls can stay with a person for life.
Aim to connect & empathize first. If you find it difficult to deal with an issue calmly and respectfully, wait until you can.
Own your stuff
ALL of us become intensely triggered by our children at times. Know that their behavior is NEVER just about them.
There is a dynamic at play, and our children, quite simply, show us our stuff. They are not to blame for that.
Children do not want to make our lives difficult.
Even saying to yourself ‘I’m really … (angry/frustrated/afraid) right now’ is enough to stop those feelings being directed at our children, at least in that moment.
They are not responsible for our feelings. It’s a heavy load for them to carry when we want to make them responsible.
For more about owning our stuff & dealing with emotions go here
Show respect & faith in their abilities
When a child feels we have faith in them, they develop a strong faith in themselves.
Cultivate a healthy respect for your child as a unique, autonomous individual who is capable of learning and developing incredible abilities.
Children are a LOT more capable than we generally give them credit for.
Set firm boundaries
It’s up to us to teach & demonstrate healthy, loving boundaries. Be consistent and follow through.
Don’t be afraid to say no if what they want to do is harmful to person (self or others) or property, or is not what they need.
It’s actually an act of love to restrict someones free will if they intend to do harm.
Cease the blame, shame & pain game
Unfortunately, conventional parenting & discipline is based on this.
Children don’t deserve to be blamed, shamed or made to suffer to teach them a lesson. The only thing they learn from this approach is to fear us, to not trust in the people who say they love and care about us, and to lie.
Why would they want to tell the truth if blame, shame, and pain is the result?
They will also learn how to hurt back, and to inflict this treatment on others.
Let them feel
Allow them to feel their emotions, don’t be afraid of tantrums, melt-downs and reactions. Teach them how to recognize and deal with their emotions by being present & reflective, empathic and non-judgemental.
So many mental health issues in our youth today are stemming from a deep belief that they cannot cope with their own emotions.
Teach them that emotions are just emotions. There is actually NO emotion we cannot cope with, no matter how intense. In fact, we are designed to feel very intensely so that we can release that feeling and let it go, move on.
Children actually demonstrate this beautifully & naturally, until we begin to shut them down.
And this, my friends, is where the trouble begins. It’s not the emotion itself that causes the problem, but the RESISTANCE of just feeling this temporary feeling.
So as you can see, if you’ve stayed with me this far, this is an EPIC subject (and I only very briefly touched on each of the 10 points), despite the light easy-breezy headline 🙂
It is a subject which, I feel, deserves and requires a LOT more attention.
Wrapping it Up
I guess if there is just ONE thing to remember from reading this article, let it be this …
Our children are ALL individual souls, with their own unique interests and passions, and an innate free will! And this deserves to be respected & honoured and discovered for themselves!!
What About You?
What are your thoughts and feelings about this subject? What have been your experiences? I would LOVE to hear from you.
Let’s share & support each other here. I believe this topic is WAY too important to brush over & get on with our day as per usual.
Let’s change the world! One precious child at a time.
Originally published here, on Aha NOW!