10 Ways to Teach our Children to Be Happy ~Part Two

Part One outlines the first 5 lessons to teach our children how to be happy as they grow throughout their childhood and enter adulthood. 

It’s a common misconception that happiness is an end to be achieved—like breaking the tape at the end of a finish line—and once achieved, it is theirs to hold onto for life.  But we all know despite our best efforts and determination to be happy, disappointments, heartbreaks, and adversity unavoidably fall unwelcome and unwanted.    

In addition to the first 5 lessons from Part One: Resiliency, Gratitude, Self-love, Hard Work/Service, and Contentment, these 5 lessons will help your children learn to overcome all hurdles to their happiness. 

6. Good Habits

Habits, whether good or bad, take repeated exposure to create.  But, as author Brian Tracy explains, the difference is, “Bad habits are easy to form, but hard to live with. Good habits are hard to form, but easy to live with.”

The key to instilling good habits in our kids is one of the hardest things parents have to do: be consistent.  We have to work with the end in mind, and let the hope of our children’s lives being blessed by good habits be our motivation.  While our children are building good habits, they will lean on our consistency, until they have built enough muscle to continue on their own. 

What you have to ask yourself, when your child throws a tantrum over brushing their teeth, or refuses to finish their homework, is are the rewards worth it?  Won’t these simple, good habits make their lives “easier”?  And won’t your child’s life will be blessed because of them?

“Simple, consistent good habits lead to a life full of bountiful blessings.”

Richard G. Scott

Like many things, our children fight the good we’re trying to teach them by insisting that we don’t have their best interest at heart.  Don’t be discouraged.  They may never admit it, but their happiness will be your reward. 

Start young, be consistent, model the behavior, and offer lots and lots of encouragement!

7. Problem-solving 

Like other things on this list, teaching our children problem-solving skills is easiest when we model the behavior for them.  Do they witness us throw our hands in the air, curse, mutter disparaging remarks about ourselves, and generally throw a temper tantrum?  If so, that’s the behavior they will subconsciously adopt when they face a problem. 

Teaching our children how to properly maneuver around a road-block when they arise can contribute to teaching them one of life’s single greatest lessons: altering your perspective. 

Teach Children Problem-Solving

Often, as adults with considerable more life experience than our children, we look at their problems with an almost whimsical attitude.  Of course, we have the luxury of feeling such because 1. It’s not our problem, and 2. We’ve already learned how to overcome it. 

The crux there is #2.  We know through empirical evidence, that the trial our children are facing can be overcome, and there is happiness and peace that live on the other side of the hurdle.  They don’t know that.  We have to reassure them that it can be overcome, but only after they are able to erase their defeatist perspective about the problem and reframe problems as a means to an end, an opportunity for growth, and a pathway to greater happiness. 

8. Forgiveness

“The weak can never forgive.  Forgiveness is an attribute of the strong.”

Mahatma Gandhi

Refusing to forgive someone—even the most grievous offenses—allows the offender to maintain control over you.  Like many other attributes and lessons on this list, forgiveness isn’t easy.  In fact, of this list, it might be the one fewest adults have mastered. 

We need to teach our children that forgiveness isn’t something others can demand of us.  Should the other party ask for forgiveness? Sure.  But demand we give it to them on their terms? Never. 

Forgiveness is a blessing we give ourselves.  Yes, it’s nice to be forgiven when we hurt another, but when it comes to happiness, it’s less often our insistence that someone else forgive us that is impeding our happiness, and more often our own iron-clad refusal to forgive another that is preventing our happiness.   

We simply cannot be happy while holding onto past injuries.  It would be like re-breaking an arm when it begins to heal just to remind us how bad it hurt in the first place.  All we’re doing is harming ourselves.

Teach your children that forgiveness of others comes in their own time and in their own way, but that it must eventually come.  Teach them that holding onto past offenses focuses their attention on the injury, the heartache, and the pain, which blocks happiness from filling their hearts. 

9. Purpose

Teach Children to find purpose. David O McKay

Teaching our children to find their purpose can be a hard one.  This is especially true when we know from life experience, that our own “purpose” has changed throughout our lives. 

To better understand, I suggest we alter our definition of “purpose” just slightly.  Our purpose is not something we get up and do every day: i.e. “my purpose is my job that I fulfill so I can put food on my table and a roof over my head”.   

While being employed and having a fulfilling career can reinforce self-respect, encourage healthy habits, and allow for the material comforts of life, it does not ensure happiness.  Teach your children that there is purpose in what they are doing, (school, work, social development, etc.) but their purpose isn’t in doing, but in becoming.

For those who believe we are spiritual children of God, our purpose may be expounding that Divine role.  For others, it may be creating spiritual harmony between who you are and the rest of the world/humankind.  Either way, this idea of purpose focuses on developing who you are, not reducing you to simply what you do. 

Understanding this one great, overreaching purpose will, as McKay said, “challenge [us] to be at [our] best” every day.  Teach your children to adopt a spiritual purpose that is greater than themselves.  A purpose that is so grand, it encapsulates other fluid, daily “purposes” that change with us as we go through life.

This way, we can teach our children how to eliminate the unnecessary from their lives, and focus on those things that will bring them growth, empathy, and happiness. 

10. Empathy

Empathy is the capstone attribute we should all aspire to obtain.  Of course, it’s something that is learned slowly over time as we acquire more life experience, so to expect it of our young children may be unrealistic. 

However, if you take time to watch children, it seems like they often have a better grasp on empathy than we adults do.  Children are more inclined to absorb sorrow and sit in quiet, patient comfort than adults are.  So, perhaps the trick here isn’t teaching children how to be empathetic, but rather encouraging them to stay empathetic. 

Teach children to allow for emotions and not push them aside, but reflect and understand them.  Teach them to listen without the desire to respond, but rather, to hear.  And last, teach them to be a friend in every circumstance, not just the good.  These things combined will help them hold onto their natural childhood empathy as they grow.  Thus, they will be a warm, happy, and peaceful light that attracts others to them. 

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” 

Maya Angelou

Re-cap: 10 Lessons for our Children

Happiness is a worthy goal for all of us.  It’s not something that we are going to have at every moment of every day, but we can—and should—expect to fill our lives with it.  Learning these 10 lessons helps remove the things that would dispel our happiness and return again to it as quickly as possible. 

  1. Resiliency: mistakes are proof that you are trying
  2. Gratitude: a grateful heart is a happy heart
  3. Self-love: understanding your inherent worth protects you physically & emotionally
  4. Hard Work & Service: the fastest way to dispel feelings of despair is through heartfelt service
  5. Contentment: be at peace with who you are, where you are, and what you have
  6. Good Habits: blessings come from good, consistent habits
  7. Problem-solving: every hurdle can and will be overcome
  8. Forgiveness: forgiveness is a blessing we give ourselves
  9. Purpose: focus your life on expanding who you are, not what you do
  10. Empathy: understand emotions, listen, and have integrity with your relationships

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