Remember that feeling of amazement and joy that coursed through you when you heard your child say his/her first word? How you said it over and over again and and encouraged your child to repeat it? How proudly you shared it with your family, friends and relatives? As parents we feel hugely proud and happy when our children learn something for themselves. It could be a simple two syllable first word, a first faltering step, mastering a riding toy, stacking up blocks or brushing their teeth.
Some of our best moments in life come from watching our children acquiring skills and accomplishing things for themselves. We want them to be happy, successful, independent people as they grow into adulthood and we strive hard to teach them skills to this end. But research proves that more often than not we skew on to the side of success than happiness. We are more likely to teach a child to succeed at something than teach him/her to be happy just trying. Maybe it is because we all know what success in terms of material wealth and position, status etc. looks like and it is easier to quantify than happiness.
Our children often take their cues from us just like we did from our parents. The idea that a parent will know what to is something that is ingrained in all of us and we instinctively turn to them for answers. Parents are in fact the first teachers of every child. As the very first teachers from whom our children learn what can we do to make them grow up into happy contented adults?
Be happy yourself: The first step of teaching anyone is that we have to master the subject ourselves. Children watch, observe the adults in their lives very closely and tend to reflect their emotions and ideas. So look at the positives in your life ( a good job, good health, a home or a healthy child) and teach yourself to be happy.
Prioritize and build relationships : Keeping pace with a dizzying work place and other responsibilities often mean that we push less pressing concerns (or so we think) to the back burner. From knowing your neighbour to visiting that cousin who lives across town, we are more likely to push it aside on our ‘to do’ list. Relationships take work, but are worth it as the happiest are those who have more people in their lives.
Emphasize effort, not perfection: Who got the trophy is often less important than who enjoyed trying to get it. It is great to win a prize, but to one who enjoys playing the game, it is a win right from the start. Encourage excellence; do not let it be your only goal.
Teach Optimism : Optimists are not born, they can be made. If you teach your child to believe that a half glass has what you will need, they will be happier as they work toward filling it up. There is evidence that things work out better if they are viewed that way.
Teach self-discipline: It may be as simple as going to bed at the right time even though there is a great time to be had, or just watching less television, but self-discipline builds up to lifelong happiness habits. Delaying gratification when young will teach your children to control their emotions later and make them happy in the long run.
More free playtime : Play is the work of childhood. As anxious parents we often think that scheduled activities and amassing skills will help our children to be successful. Free play promotes physical, emotional, mental well being along with helping a child to learn how to negotiate, imagine, resolve conflict, prioritize- all skills necessary for the real world. There is research to prove that diminishing free play is slowing down the development of children in the long run. So let them knock those blocks down, or build a toy train track or race cars more often, with more exuberance.
Create the right environment: If you have a happy, disciplined, optimistic outlook, and interact with your children at every opportunity, you are giving them a happiness boost. Eat together, play together, read a book or build something. Some of our best memories come from the simplest times and contribute greatly to our happiness. In this world of mixed messages show them that happiness cannot be bought by having the biggest car or the best clothes or the latest gadgets.
“All the best of me belongs to her” says Helen Keller of her teacher Ann Mansfield Sullivan, in her book, ‘The story of my life’. As the first and most important teachers in your child’s life, you owe it to them to teach them to create a happy story of their life. So, what are you teaching your child today? Happy teachers day!