What is the one thing we want from our children?
We want them to be happy.
And what are we trying to do when we buy them things and take them to wonderful places?
We are trying our best to make our children happy.
We are ready to do anything to make our children happy. And we work hard to do everything to make our children happy. But we are not successful. Our children are still not as happy as we would like them to be.
There are frowns, and glum sulky faces – in houses that should be filled with radiant faces. Complains abound when sounds of joyous laughter are expected. And despite all the hard work that goes into making things perfect – so that everyone is happy – no one ever is really happy.
So – where are we going wrong? What can we do above and beyond what we are doing to make our children happy?
A lot of parents are now asking this question.
As parents then – the first thing we need to realize is – that we cannot make our children happy.
Happiness doesn’t come from things – so no matter what you buy your child – your child is not going to be happy.
Happiness doesn’t come from places. So no matter where you take your child – you can’t make him happy.
Happiness doesn’t come from having things done for you. So no matter what you do – you cannot make your child happy.
Yes they may look happy for a while. They may smile and jump with joy for a little while. But it doesn’t last.
Why? Because happiness originates in the mind.
Each person has to produce happiness for himself before he can be happy
Life is made up of difficulties, adversities and challenges.
As we go through life – life does everything to upset us and make us cry. And the challenge is – to remain happy through the difficulties and challenges of life by thinking differently.
So while you cannot make your child Happy – you can teach your child to be happy.
You can teach your child how to laugh and smile – especially when things are really not that funny.
Teach your child that happiness is making others laugh
A child who takes himself too seriously is likely to be very unhappy. He is also likely to be frozen into inaction because of his fear of failure
When a child unintentionally does something that makes others laugh – encourage him to see the funny side of what he has done – and laugh at himself.
Help him to learn to laugh at himself and his foolishness or mistakes. Make sure that he understands that minor mistakes are not disgraceful and should be laughed off.
Teach your child that it is more important to be kind and happy than to be correct.
Teach him that the sound of laughter is more valuable than the sound of applause.
It is important to understand that you can only be happy when everyone else around you is happy. And that it is Ok to make others laugh even if they are laughing at you.
Teach your child that happiness is delighting in imperfection
Why do we postpone happiness? Because we are waiting for everything to be perfect before we give ourselves the permission to be happy.
But what is perfection? How good must things be before we are satisfied?
There is no definite answer to that question.
There are degrees of perfection – and what is perfect for one person may never be good enough for another. What is perfect today may not be perfect tomorrow.
So why strive for something so elusive?
Constantly aiming to be picture perfect leads to children being serious and unsmiling. Children don’t need to be perfect and nor do you.
When we teach children that we can be happy only when we look perfect or when everything around us is perfect – we show them how to be permanently unhappy.
It is impossible for things to be perfect. And when you look for imperfection – you find them easily. And every imperfection is a recipe for unhappiness.
Little children first learn to laugh when they see things that are imperfect.
Just doing things in the reverse order or putting something upside down is enough to make children squeal with laughter.
Toothpaste put on the reverse side of the brush or a shoe placed on the head – is extremely funny to a small child
When we tell children that these imperfections are unacceptable – that they can’t be laughed at and enjoyed. And instead need to be corrected immediately and steadfastly prevented in the future – we erase and stamp out their path to happiness and laughter.
Stop killing yourself over things that are not perfect. Enjoy the imperfections. Laugh at the imperfections of life and let your child laugh too. But never forget to strive for constant improvement.
Teach your child that happiness is taking joy in little things
As we get busier and busier and more and more accomplished – we wait for big things to feel happy.
A big promotion, an exotic vacation or a new car – those are the things that make us happy.
But big things don’t happen every day and so we give ourselves permission to feel happy very rarely.
Children learn this from us.
The same baby who feels happy and squeals with laughter if you just play hide and seek with her – grows into a child who is not happy until you take her to a fancy mall and buy her an expensive doll or the latest phone.
How does this happen?
This happens because we don’t take the time to delight in the small every day little things that make up life. And because we don’t acknowledge these little things as sources of happiness – our children do not learn to acknowledge and delight in the little things either.
It is important to teach children to pause and be grateful for the smallest things. The fresh air in the morning, the colours of the setting sun, the breeze on a warm day are all things that can be sources of great happiness.
Learning to find happiness in little things can keep us joyful forever because small things happen all the time unlike the big things.
Teach your child that happiness is staying positive
Failure is inevitable. To succeed – you must first fail. But if you plan to be a success you must be determined not to be crushed by your first failure.
Teach your child to stay positive through obstacles and failures. Teach him that every obstacle is a chance to improve and become better. Because practice makes perfect.
Make sure your child does not learn to fear failure or to run away from disappointments.
Be a living example of hard work and perseverance. Lead by example.
Teach your child that happiness is understanding that life goes on
Several times a lot of effort in terms of love energy and time do not produce the expected results. But life goes on. Something good always comes out of the worst situations.
Friends leave – plants die – things change – but life goes on.
When children are disappointed and dejected because of all the things that are going wrong – it is important to take the time to help them notice all the things that are magically going right too.
Failures and disappointments are an inseparable part of life. It is important to help children understand that in spite of everything that goes wrong – life still goes on. And in most cases – whatever happens – happens for the best
Teach your child that happiness is making the best out of a bad situation
Many times in life things are not going to go as planned.
It is easy to get dejected and disappointed and curse our luck when such things happen. But negative thoughts and emotions about adverse circumstances do not help anyone.
When things go wrong or when things don’t go as planned – there is always a silver lining to the dark cloud. And it is important to show children this silver lining.
A missed bus could mean the opportunity to notice the beautiful roses that you always missed seeing because you managed to catch the bus. A lost trip could mean the opportunity to stop and smell the roses.
Teach your child that happiness is being spontaneous
Plans and schedules are important. They are in fact vital. Plans, schedules and time tables allow us to achieve a lot in very little time and we really need them to stay sane in our every day lives.
However, very often – driven by our desire to accomplish and achieve – we become slaves to our routines and time tables.
We function like robots and become machine like in our actions. And we pass on the same to our children.
But as useful as routines may be, they often come in the way of living life joyfully. Every minute of every day has a task assigned to it – leaving no time for free play and enjoyment.
As much as we want to inculcate discipline and order in the lives of our children – we must also show them how to live spontaneously. To go where the heart wants and do what the heart desires.
Release your child from the pressure of routines once in a while and do something that makes both of you happy – just because you want to do it.
Breaking into a song – for no reason, giving someone a smile or a hug for no reason, or making time to help someone even on a very busy day – are acts of spontaneity that can bring so much happiness to a mundane routine life.
Teach your child that happiness is being grateful
Too often we focus on what we don’t have. We complain about everything that is going wrong.
And because we are so busy complaining about what we don’t have and what is going wrong – we have no time to notice all the things that we have and all the things that are going right for us.
In every situation – push yourself to recognize everything that you should be grateful for at a given moment. You will find that your child slowly begins to notice everything there is to be grateful for as well.
Show your child how much better off you are – every time you have a chance.
Make it a habit to count your blessings every day and help your child to count his/her blessings.
Always teach your child that happiness is just one positive thought away. All you need to do is change the way you think.
It is easy to be unhappy – but it is worth it to put in the effort to be happy.
Read more on the science behind happy families here