If a parent is unhappy, so too is their child…
…and vice-versa – to be happy themselves, children need happy parents.
I’ve dedicated the entire Christmas Special issue to ways in which we can find happiness. How, though, can we create inner happiness for our children? In other words, how can we breed happiness?
Many parents mistakenly believe that children are automatically happy. Of course, unlike us, they don’t yet have a mental anxiety cabinet labelled ‘everything that COULD GO WRONG in my life’. Children may well be blessed with positive imagination, curiosity, and playfulness, but we can’t make them happy by doing things for them. Instead, we should show them things that they can do themselves. It’s true – children can also find internal happiness, and can do so much more easily than adults. They do, however, need something from us, in order to achieve this happiness: a little help, a little hope, and, most importantly, someone stable by their side… someone who believes in them.
I often think of Vaclav Havel, and, specifically, one of his musings: “Hope is not belief that something will turn out well. It is certainty that something makes sense regardless of how it will turn out.”
First and foremost, children should live lives that make sense. Therefore, more than anything else, they need to hear words of hope, love, and pride:
I love you.
I’m proud of you.
I believe in you.
I forgive you.
I’m listening to you.
This is your responsibility now.
In the Christmas Special, I explain how to transfer the right energy to your children. Let’s take the time to get this right. Let’s not forget that childhood is short and fast. We may only hold our children’s hands for a short time, but we hold their hearts forever.
How, then, can we help them to experience a happy childhood, and one which is more likely to develop into a happy adulthood? In other words, how can even we, ourselves, be a little bit happier?
1. Let’s give them time to play
Naturally, this should come after they’ve finished their routine tasks. Have you ever considered, however, why children need to play? It’s a true fact that children learn best by playing. Through play, they discover that we can entertain ourselves by trying new things. After all, this is why children ask for new challenges, and new approaches – just like adults…
By playing, children develop imagination, creativity, and competition. Most of the time, they play the role of their own competitor. They learn to fail, and to succeed. And the more time they spend with their friends, the more intensive their learning becomes. Child psychologists say that children learn basic life skills from other children, rather than from adults, and that they copy their friends more than they copy adults. In most cases, this is a good thing. Let them go out and learn.
2. Let’s argue in private, not in front of them
An adult whose development has slowed down, or stopped altogether, struggles to understand that a child’s brain develops incredibly fast, especially during early childhood. A child could be negatively influenced by seeing adults resign under the weight of their problems and doubts. They could become infected with anxiety – an anxiety that might not be visible when observing the child.
My readers will read, why children do precisely the opposite of what their parents ask them to do, and how to prevent this. Children should never hear stressful or manipulative conversations and, most importantly, should not be taught to favour their own ‘truth’ over discussion. This is because a ‘winning’ or ‘losing’ argument determines WHO is better, whereas discussion teaches children to discover WHAT is better.
3. Let’s not compare our children to others
Today’s society focuses heavily on success, and this tempts parents to teach young children the art of competition. Many parents do this, and proceed to compare their children to others. What’s worse, some adults (not just parents) use this strategy to highlight ‘desirable’ personality traits that a child should, but does not, have. By doing so, adults force children to mimic other children, and to settle for life as a replica – never as good as the original. Instead, they’ll always be trailing behind.
Unfortunately, comparative tendencies deteriorate a child’s self-confidence and self-worth, especially if the comparisons are negative. If you want to raise a happy child, help them to develop their own strengths. Your child may not be like other children, but they will be unique.
4. Let’s explain the benefits of negative emotions
Naturally, children don’t have much life experience. They also suffer from spontaneous outbursts of anger, jealousy, and sadness, which they interpret negatively, rather than as a positive opportunity – an opportunity to get annoyed with themselves, and to move on from situations that bother them.
Adults are partly to blame, because we tend to punish children for negative emotional reactions. Throwing a tantrum is viewed as bad behaviour, and deserving of punishment. On the contrary, it’s good to remind our children that everyone – even ‘perfect’ adults – experience negative emotions, and to teach them how to deal with these emotions constructively, or use them for personal growth.
5. Let’s appreciate their efforts
Every day, children edge closer to realising that progression requires hard work. Soon, they won’t be able to exclusively do things that they enjoy. Instead, they’ll need to knuckle-down, and to overcome circumstances and individuals that work against them. They’ll need to keep going, despite ridicule and antagonism… even despite themselves.
It’s important to recognise when a child is trying to achieve something. Something that’s not easy for them, and something they have no special talent for, but something they’re attempting anyway.
From birth, children try to overcome things they’re not yet good at. Unfortunately, adults try to make things easier for them. Parents don’t want to see their children suffer, or even fail. Therefore, they show children easier ways, whereby they’ll always be happy and successful. The problem with this method is that life doesn’t end at childhood, and we all face struggles as adults – that’s life.
We mustn’t be afraid to fight, to strive, and to better ourselves. To be able to do so, we need supporters to pick us up when we fall down, and to say, “never mind, try it again, differently this time, you’ll work it out!”
What gives children a sense of contentment and self-confidence?
Please, continue to the 2nd page