Happiness. We all desire to be happy, and the thing we want most for our children is for them to be happy. But should happiness really be our number one priority when it comes to raising them?
Should raising a happy child be our number one priority?
We all know by now that life for our children won't always be easy, happy, and go lucky. This world is a dark place, full of evil and unspeakable things that happen every day. So, how can we give our children a balance of reality, as well as protect them from the not so pleasant aspects of life?
It's not wrong to seek happiness or to desire happiness for ourselves or our kids. But it could possibly be misguiding for them, if when we expect it to come our way and it doesn't, our worlds falls apart. Learning a balance of seeking and desiring happiness and accepting life when it isn't happy, is a difficult concept to live by - let alone teach our children.
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Here are some ways you can help your child have a balance of reality in pursuing happiness for their lives, and not falling apart when that happiness suddenly disappears.
- Making everything easy for our kids comes naturally as a mother, but try and not overdue it. It might confuse them when it comes to learning to do things on their own as well as give them a sense of entitlement.
- Giving them whatever they want won't happen when they leave our nests, so preparing them for that fact is crucial.
- When they are at an appropriate age, show them the realities of poverty or dire circumstances. Learning that material things are privileges will help them matriculate gratitude and give them perspective on "happiness" - also knowing that people can be happy without certain material things or x amount of money.
- Teach them to fend for themselves and make money. You can start as early as they understand the concept of what things cost and money is general - give them a household job and pay them for it!
- Try not to put on a facade that everything in your life is perfect and happy.
- When bad things happen in life, explain it to them. They can handle a lot more than you think.
- When they reach an appropriate age, try not to hide death or casualties from them. You can teach them about death when a bug or household pet dies - it's a good place to start, anyway.
- Teach them to expect the best from people.
- Let them know that feeling's of unhappiness are a normal part of life.
- If disappointment comes their way, teaching them to work through it instead of avoiding it, will start to prepare them for the difficult realities of life.
What happens to our children if they think that they deserve to always be happy?
When we don't prepare them for disappointment in life, their experience of hard times may cause them to become depressed or anxious.
How can we prepare them for the difficult realities of life?
Feelings are a beautiful thing. This fact should be ingrained in them from the beginning. I tend to be careful, though, in teaching them what to do with their feelings; as they are a signal to our minds that there needs to be a reaction. Here's what I do when my son, for example, feels angry. I sit him down, sit next to him, and with a soft voice ask him to explain what's going on and how he feels in his heart. I tell him that I understand and that it's okay to be angry, but it's important to do something with it.
I first give him the opportunity to choose what he wants to do with his anger. He sometimes needs time or space, but eventually we work through it together - whether that's letting it go or just accepting something.
Teaching our children what to do with their feelings, will help them know how to better handle them when they are of an unpleasant nature.
Let them make decisions for themselves.
There will always be consequences to their bad choices. The earlier they learn this, the better. The consequence of touching a hot stove is that they'll be burned. The consequence of lying about what they did, could have deeper consequences that can affect their heart. To let them make decisions that may lead to an uncomfortable consequence or circumstance is possibly one of the most important lessons they will ever learn.
Teach them to take responsibility for their actions
Children usually know when they have done something wrong, but they need direction in knowing what to do when they did something wrong. First, it's vital we aren't portraying to them that taking responsibility should be done to please us. I think sometimes we do this unintentionally as parents - I know I do; but rather it should come from the knowledge that taking responsibility in life for what they did wrong, is the right thing to do.
It may be a harsh and unpleasant whack on the face for our children to go out into the world, if at home everything is handed to them on a silver platter. We can't protect them from everything, but we can teach them the realities of this world in a safe environment that we can control.
If you believe in God, it's important for them to realize that God asks us to take responsibility for our actions, which takes the pressure off of them pleasing you, and makes it about pleasing God. So, when you aren't the authority in their life anymore, they won't think to themselves, 'I can do this now because my parents aren't the boss of me anymore,' but they will consider that what they are doing can have consequences. Hopefully, they will decide to make a good decisions because God asks it of them - which will also give them a lasting authority to follow their entire life, and not just you as a parent.
Why happiness is overrated
I believe that happiness is a fleeting feeling. Feelings come and go. If we teach our children that the number one thing they should seek in their life is happiness, we will not only set them up for a huge disappointment, we will set them up for failure.
So, what should be the most important thing we teach our children?
That life is unpredictable, and having a good attitude when things go wrong will be the surest way for them to experience JOY in their lives.
The difference between joy and happiness.
Happiness is a feeling you have when your circumstances are going well. Joy is a state of being you can choose to be in, even when your circumstances are bad.
For them to choose joy, even when their circumstances are bad, will give them an upper hand in having a bit more control when their feelings are out of whack. I'm not talking about having them suppress them; rather instruct them to guide their feelings to a more positive light, in spite of difficult times. It will give them something to grasp and hold onto and won't leave them depressed when things don't go their way.
In a world where feelings of happiness are the most important, it's our job and duty as parents to set our kids up for success in the fact that this feeling of happiness won't always be their constant, and that's okay!
When they are raised to believe they need to be happy at all times, how will they know how to get through the tough times if their marriage gets hard or overcome losing their job? What about getting bullied for that matter - which is probably the most problematic epidemic surging our schools.
In a recent study, suicides, especially among young people, have risen significantly since 2000.
It's apparent that the world our children are growing up in is unfortunately laced in a dark and grueling reality of bullying - driven by social media.
So, what should we do when we can't control our kids environment that they grow up in? We teach them what to do when bad things happen.
Unfortunately, I can't be there to kick some kid in the knee cap if he messed with my son, but I can teach my son what to do if that happens; as well as teach him to stand up for those who are getting picked on.
If we teach them to look at life from a standpoint of "what can I offer this world and the people in it?" instead of "what can this world and everyone do for me?" - we will surely give them the upper hand in enduring this thing we call life.
Ugh. This. Life.
It's hard being a parent!
What are some ways that you help your kids out when dealing with unhappiness?