Nurturing Happiness In Our Children

Every loving parent longs for their children to be happy. I for one know that when my children are happy, there is a happy atmosphere in the home. There is less bickering and fighting; there is laughter as they play outside; there is the sound of pretty songs being sung as they move around the house.

Typically, our “go-to” for making our children happy is to give them those things or experiences that lend themselves to happiness. If my children ask me for an ice-cream, at that moment when I say yes, they are happy. When I congratulate them on a well deserved effort at school or on the sports field, they are happy. When we tell them that we are going to be going to our favourite holiday destination, they are happy. But these are moments of happiness. These are good, but I want to give my children more than moments; I want to cultivate lives of happiness. How do I do that?

I want to suggest that the way to do so has less to do with those moments where we pander to their wants and desires, but instead has to do with cultivating in them a character that is given to the needs and desires of others. Or to put it another way, if we would develop happiness in our children, we must give ourselves to cultivating thoughtfulness and kindness. Research has proven time and time again that the happiest people in the world are not those with the most things. The happiest people in the world are those who are kind and thoughtful. Here are some ideas of how to develop kindness in our children:

  1. Kindness Cash

In addition to the pocket money they receive, how about giving them an extra-amount with the condition that it must be spent on others. My wife and I recently started doing that with our three girls, with the proviso that half of that extra cash must be spent on a member of the family, and the other half on somebody else. The member of the family they spoil with their “kindness cash” is determined by a name draw. The ‘somebody else’ could be anybody, except a close friend, who is known or unknown to them. We encourage them to ask the question, “Who is most likely to appreciate a surprising act of kindness?” My wife used half of her kindness cash to purchase a box meal for a car guard a few days ago.

2. Kindness Conversation

The most inexpensive way to give, and yet one of the most powerful, is to give kindness with our words. So much of our conversation is random, the result of a reaction to something or another. Kindness conversation requires the daily intention of saying something kind and encouraging to someone everyday. Having a family meal around the dinner table at least once a day is a great opportunity to share kindness conversation. Give each of your children an opportunity to extend a few kind words to each of their siblings, such as “Annie, your hair has looked so lovely today” or “Katie, I thought your drawing was beautiful.”

3. Kindness Care

When I was a cub scout, a part of the motto I had to repeat each week went something like this: “…to do a good turn to someone everyday.” The message was clear, and again begged my being intentional. Again, the place to begin to cultivate selflessness, is to do so in the home. The next time one of your children has a need, instead of rushing in to help them, ask yourself if any of your other children may be able to offer the help instead of you. It may be the explanation of a maths equation, it may be helping to find a lost shoe, or it may involve be sitting beside them and telling them that it is OK when they are distraught at having been treated unfairly by their peers.

You may have some other wonderful ideas, which I would love you to share, but here’s the point: The key to developing happiness in our children rests in nurturing kindness!

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