Saturday, November 14, 2009

Raising Happy Kids

Childhood is an incredibly sensitive time when the seeds of happiness are planted. It is such seeds that help a child form a positive self-concept, worldview and connection to all of humanity. Internal qualities to develop that contribute to happiness are kindness, compassion, self-confidence, self-trust, equanimity, courage, generosity, gratitude and optimism.

Eastern thinkers have reminded us that true, and lasting happiness stems from an internal state of mind. Like His Holiness the Dalai Lama explained, "Happiness mainly comes from our own attitude, rather than from external factors." Influencing the formation of a child's positive attitude and skillful worldview is positive parenting. It is step one in raising a happy child.

Helping a child feel good about him or herself and learn how to cultivate a mental state that supports positive emotions (love, generosity, joy, kindness) while diminishing negative states (sadness, anger, fear, jealousy, hatred) is the path towards fostering happiness in kids.

Happy Kids

So what does a happy child look like? You know. Sally has a smiling face. Chris cheers on his sister at a soccer game. Happy kids aren't perfect kids but they often look at the positive side of life, and feel good about what is happening in and around them. It has been my observation and research that happy kids are also marked by 3 distinct experiences in childhood. They are:
  • Helpful to Others - Happy Kids learn early-on that helping others is not only a kind thing to do but helps them feel good too. Adults can call it charitable works, generosity, compassion, volunteerism or just plain niceness to help others out. It may holding a door open for an elderly person, writing a "Get Well" card to Grandma or donating food to a food bank.
  • Unique Expression - Happy Kids are encouraged to express their unique creativity and talents. Parents, adults and caregivers encourage children to discover and explore their unique interests from painting to learning a new language. So Pamela is given piano lessons because of her enthusiasm and interest in the piano (not her parents!).
  • Safe and Supported - Happy Kids feel safe and secure in their households. They are not worried about their drunken mothers or fathers hitting them or other types of family abuse. Such kids feel safe in their home environments both physically and emotionally. Words spoken to kids are supportive and encouraging so they begin to believe the world will support them, and life can be fun.
Positive Parenting

Raising happy kids takes time, effort and dedication to bringing out their best. Every child is also unique and different. There really is no effective "cookie cutter" approach to raising happy kids - just effective tools and a well paved path to follow from those who came before us. It is helpful to remember even though happiness is a popular topic in the West today - people have studied it, explored it and experienced it for thousands of years.

So I invite you along to stay connected and stay tuned into my Blog as I explore how to raise happier and more confident kids over the coming months.

by Maureen Healy
Maureen is the founder of Growing Happy Kids, a worldwide organization focused upon fostering happiness in children.