There’s a great song I love. It goes like this, “If that’s all there is, then let’s keep dancing. Let’s break out the booze and have a ball…” I couldn’t agree more, especially about breaking out the booze on a warm summer evening but it does beg the question of is happiness all there is?
Is trying to make sure your child is happy the holy grail of our parenting purpose? After all, we know that if you give a child a toy they want, they will be happy.
All parents want their children to be happy, but what if our incessant focus on creating happiness for our little ones has removed from view other important facets that make our lives truly fulfilling.
So, here are 4 aspects to work on for your child that I believe are far more important than simple happiness.Is happiness all there is? No, your child needs to feel part of the the community
Is happiness all there is? No, your child needs to feel part of the the community
Feeling part of something larger than yourself is critical to human wellbeing. I use the word wellbeing because it doesn’t imply that the end result is necessarily happiness. It means being well, being a well balanced and well developed human being.
Having your little one contribute to chores won’t necessarily make your child happy in today’s understanding of the word, though it will contribute to their overall wellbeing. Why? Well because it makes them feel special because they’re important to you and they’re out there helping, contributing to the family unit.
Think of how much happier you are when you’re doing something together with your family. Perhaps it’s a pot luck and everybody is clearing dishes together. You feel part of what’s going on, part of larger effort and it makes you feel good.
It’s exactly the same for children when they help. It takes care of the very important human need for your child to be part of something larger than themselves, your family and the community at large.
Is happiness all there is? No, your child needs to take on something challenging
It turns out that the brain loves things that are challenging and that anyone, yourself and your children included, feel much better if you have to struggle for something you want. In his book, ‘Satisfaction: The Science of Finding True Fulfillment,’ Dr. Gregory Berns explains that real satisfaction and hedonistic pleasure are two very different things, and there is a totally different response by the brain to the two different types of stimuli.
Satisfaction activates dopamine, which basically means both you and your children feel better if something is harder to achieve. The more you work for whatever you want, the greater the high you feel once you achieve it.
We all know that feeling. That huge feeling of satisfaction when we’ve really tried to do something and finally get it! If, on the other hand you are just given something or can get something you want for little effort in a passive way, it might be pleasurable, but it doesn’t feel nearly as good as having earned it.
Is happiness all there is? No, your child needs to do something for the pure joy of it
Have you ever got lost in an activity that you just don’t know where the time went? Encouraging children to get so involved in something they love that they lose themselves in it, is yet another facet of a full life that we often minimize. Parents often want children to follow certain paths, which often become based more on what the parents want than what naturally excites the child.
Yes, your child may ‘achieve happiness’ in monetary terms because of their status of one job or another, but if that endeavour doesn’t speak to them then they may never become fulfilled as human beings.
I’ve spoken to so many people that had something they were obviously brilliant at when they were young but they were never allowed to indulge in because it wouldn’t be good enough for a career or because their parents didn’t like the idea.
Encouraging children to do what they really love, rather than what might bring them wealth or make them successful, is hard but it also leads to a life well lived.
Is happiness all there is? No, your child has to realize that relationships are a two-way street
You’re the parents of your child and as their parent you provide them with a roof over their head, clothes, food, love and cuddles, amongst other things, but to be more than happy your child’s relationship with you has to have an aspect of giving, of reciprocation.
Children naturally want to help you, so it’s much easier to give them this ability than you might think. That means letting them help you out, and take time to make sure you teach them that listening and being interested in the lives of family and friends is an important part of building and sustaining loving relationships.
One of the most natural ways to foster those relationships is by making the family meal an important part of your life. Meals are a natural social occasion, and a time to catch up with each other and really find out about each other’s day. Make it a habit when they are little for your children to gather around the table and both you and they will enjoy great relationships that will last a lifetime.
Here’s a link for those of you that are interested about where you can find Dr. Berns book. http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/788488.Satisfaction
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