Search & Win

Happiness, part one

Of all the things I want to my kids to learn, I think the top three are:  How much God loves them, how to love others, and how to be happy.

Happiness, for most people, is incredibly elusive.  It's a puzzle which requires all of the pieces to fit together perfectly, and it seems one piece is always missing.  Yet it's the thing we crave, almost more than anything else.

For some people, happiness seems to be a part of them.  I think of my friends, Doug and Shona.  Each of them is known by their happy, loving attitudes.  If they are not smiling, it draws concern.  They seem to take life in stride.  Troubles don't affect them in the same way they affect other people.  It seems as though disappointment rolls off them like water off a duck's back.

How can we help our kids to "learn" to be happy?  At the Option Institute, Big Dad and I have learned many tools that we find so helpful.

The first of these is resisting the urge to make everything a moral issue.  There are moral issues.  Definitely.  And God has an opinion (THE opinion) on what is right and wrong.  However, we tend to go beyond that,  becoming more like the Pharisees of Jesus' day, making every thing a moral issue.

When I find myself being upset about something, I think about what I am saying in my mind - what I am believing in that moment.  Usually, it's something like "He SHOULD. . . " or "They OUGHT to. . ."  Shoulds and ought to's tell me right away that I have made something into a moral issue.  Maybe it is.  Maybe it's an issue of lying, or stealing or disrespecting me as a mom.  (And if it IS a moral issue, we deal with it.)

But more often than not, it's simply an issue of me not getting what I wanted in the moment, i.e. I wanted the dining room table cleared off, I am thinking "I shouldn't have to ask for the table to be cleaned up before dinner each night."  If I recognize that this is not a moral issue, but a want, then I can change the words in my head to reflect that.  So now I am thinking, "I really want the dining room cleared before dinner each night without my asking."  Hmm.  It takes the anger out of it.  I can still want it, strongly, and work to get it.  Without the anger, I can focus better on getting to a solution.  Maybe it is worth it to me to offer a reward to people who have their stuff off the table before dinner time.  Maybe I can make a chart towards earning some special treat.  The point is that I am a resourceful woman, and when I recognize my want, rather than rage in self-righteous (although misguided) anger, I can get what I want without giving up my happiness in the process.

As I have said before, modeling is the most helpful way to help your kids' learn a skill.  I imagine that Doug and Shona had parents who modeled happiness to them.  I want to do the same for my kids.

I also notice when they are using unhappiness to try to get what they want.  I ask questions to try to reveal what it is that they are thinking.  When I hear a should or ought to, I can help them to discern whether this is a moral imperative or simply a want of theirs.  Then we can brainstorm together ways for them to get what they want while still maintaining their happiness.

Wish you were here!

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