Being a kid is serious business nowadays. Times have changed and kids today can be almost as stressed out as their working parents.
In this day and age, many people would give anything to have a child that was not stressed out, but wouldn’t it be great if you could help your child cultivate a joyful life? Is it possible?
Yes, it is! So much of life is about learning. Kids watch us and emulate us even when we are not at our best. Kids do learn to be stressed and unhappy so the truth is they can learn to create joy for themselves and others.
Here are 10 simple steps to set your child up so that he or she can cultivate a joyful life.
1. Be joyful yourself.
On My God! Is that what I really said? So much easier said than done right?
The fact is that children do learn from us. They learn which objects, people, attitudes and viewpoints are important in life by watching how we react. If you are stressed out, they become stressed out and it never dawns on them that there can be another way of dealing with the situations that cause stress.
You, yourself living a stressed out life can cause them to believe that being stressed out is normal and that this is the way you have to be to be an adult. In order to give a child a good example of how to deal with life, you have to handle and reduce your stress to manageable levels.
The first step you must take on the road to managing your stress is to realize that some stress is a normal part of life but if you are stressed out all the time, that is not normal and something must change. You must handle your lifestyle and make the necessary changes.
If you are stressed out, sit down and figure out the exact reason why. If it is your job, what can you do to change the situation? If you have tried to change it and found that you could not, look for a transfer or look for another job. So many people have a huge fear of changing jobs. But if your job is stressing you out, what better lesson to teach your child than to have the confidence in yourself to make the changes in your life to make it better?
Being in a situation that creates stress in you affects your confidence insidiously and in a very negative way. If you are afraid of changing, chances are that the stress has worked heavily on your confidence, and how you feel about your true abilities is NOT reality.
In every situation in life, you have made it through somehow. Have confidence that whatever happens, you will find your way.
Many times, stress in our lives stem from the people in our lives. This brings me to my next point.
2. Teach your child to detect and avoid negative people.
I cannot put too much emphasis on this statement because in life, the biggest cause of unhappiness is being around or intimate with negative people. Negativity is a cancer that permeates a family or a group. I am sure you can think of a time you were perfectly happy and until you were around a negative person. You left either angry, sad, or feeling some other negative emotion didn’t you? That is what happens.
Children, unfortunately do not have a lot of choice in who they spend time with. Make sure that they are not forced to spend time with negative people and whatever you do, do not allow a negative person to take care of your child.
In general, negative people tend to be more irresponsible and when things go awry, tend to blame others. If your child is unfortunate enough to have a negative person as one of his or her teachers, ask for a transfer. If your daycare provider is a negative person, get a new one. Go through your list of the people with whom you associate and identify the negative ones. Then, eliminate or severely limit any association with these people for yourself and your child.
Part of your duty as a parent is to safeguard your child’s environment. His environment includes the people around him or her. If you can’t get the negative people to stop being negative, get them out of your life. Just this simple step alone, though sometimes difficult, can smooth out the roughest and most stressful life.
It is worth taking the time to do this step thoroughly. Do not allow yourself to be made guilty and manipulated by these people either. Many of them are great at making you feel guilty but realize that they have a choice in life. They can continue to be negative and harmful or they can turn around. It is up to them, but you and your child should not be around this type of person if they refuse to change. The damage they inflict on the unsuspecting is very great.
This goes for anyone negative in your environment, relatives, teachers, doctors, anybody. There are good people everywhere. They are easy to find. Seek those people out and cultivate friendships with them. You will all be happier, and being around happy and successful people makes you more happy and successful.
3. Teach your child to help others.
Helping others is one of the purest joys in life. There is no joy like watching a person become really happy and knowing we did something to make that happen. Even the littlest children will bring you gifts just for the privilege of seeing you smile.
When I was a kid, I used to stop at a tree on the side of the road on my way home from school. Every day I would pick up an autumn leaf. I would look and look until I found the prettiest one, then I would pick it up and take it to my mom. She would stick them on the fridge and we would be sad when they dried out and fell apart.
One day I came home and found that she had taken sheets of wax paper and ironed the leaves between them preserving the leaves forever in time.
I was so happy because I knew that those leaves were so special to her that she wanted to keep them. Even though I was a small child, I realized that I had given her a great gift just as she had given me one by taking the care to preserve them. It didn’t take long before our fridge was so covered in wax paper and leaves that I had trouble opening it.
4. Show your child the beauty in every day things.
Everywhere in this world, there is beauty. Perhaps we don’t notice it as much any more but I am sure there was a time when you woke up and could not wait to get outside, or a time when you stopped to admire a beautiful view.
As I have gotten older, I have never stopped looking at the autumn leaves. The trees can be so beautiful when they are dressed up in their autumn best. Sometimes, I will take walk and look at people’s gardens. Did it ever occur to you that people plant gardens in their front yard just for you to see and enjoy? Point this out to your child. It may be a new idea to him that someone would work so hard to give joy to strangers.
Everywhere you look people create beauty and wonderful effects. There is music all around us. There are funny people whose joy in life is making others laugh. There are people who dress up every day with the idea that they are going to give everyone who looks at them a treat for the eyes.
Notice these things and point them out to your child. If he sees that they are important to you, he will decide that they are important to him. He will create a habit of noticing the things that make life so precious.
5. For Gosh Sakes Don’t be soooo serious!
Find things every day to laugh about! Get an hilarious movie and laugh yourself silly! Get out the crayons and draw really goofy things! Let your imagination go wild! Laughter and joy go hand in hand. If you develop a serious side, you are robbing yourself and your child of joy. It is true that we cannot be joyful all the time but I really do believe that we take the serious thing way too far.
I have found that I get a lot more productive when I am having fun than when I am serious.
When was the last time you took out a coloring book and a fresh box of crayons, you know the new ones that have points on them and are all in one piece? I teach music to kids and we use crayons daily.
A few days ago I bought myself a new big box of crayons! I opened it up and smelled it. Remember when the smell of new Crayons was a big deal? Now all I needed was a really good coloring book and I was all set! Yes, I am a grown up! You want to come over and color with me? It’ll be FUN! Bring the kids!
6. Teach your child that a day of honest work feels GOOD!
Kids naturally want to contribute to the betterment of everyone around them.
Teach them some basic skills they can use to help you and let them do it. They will be happier! Every so often you can teach them a new skill.
I am sure that kids think that food sort of magically cooks itself. How would it be for them to know how to make something simple like toast or a grilled cheese sandwich? Teach them safety and keep an eye on them but let them go at it!
7. Teach your child that working to get things is way more satisfying than having them given to you.
I had a nice chat with one of my wonderful friends yesterday and she told me about a friend she had when she was growing up. This friend was always beautiful and received a lot of attention from men. She had married three times and each time the man in her life had given her everything she wanted, cars, furs, jewels, everything and each time she had divorced them. These were good men but the mistake they made was contributing to someone without expecting something in return.
That contribution does not have to be a material thing, it can be love, nice meals, a clean and comfy house, music played when he is relaxing, anything that makes someone’s life better.
When a person only receives and never gives, he or she is miserable and they don’t know why.
My friend told me that his was a lesson for her early in her life. She knew that it was not the receiving of items that gave her joy, it was the fact that she had worked for them and made them happen.
Think about it. Was there something that you worked hard for and finally achieved? Wasn’t that victory extra sweet? I have found over and over again that things given to us that we did not work for, are just not as cherished as those we really worked to try and get. Creating this mind set in your child will make his life joyful.
I have known many people who suffer greatly because they have a mindset that makes them firmly believe that they should be given things that they have not worked for. They have no idea that, in order to be happy, they must contribute in some way back to the person who has contributed to them.
This is just how life works. If we take and never give, we are miserable. On the other hand, if we look for ways of giving to and serving others, we are happy. Those who do this are the happiest people I know.
Those who don’t will never know the feeling of achieving a goal that they have set for themselves and worked hard to realize. And sooner or later, other people get tired of giving without receiving anything in return. Ultimately our success or failure starts and ends with us. There is no one that can give it to us and the happiest people I know fully realize that and embrace it.
8. Help your child adopt a pet and teach him how to care for it.
Having a pet is one of the big joys in life. Knowing that there is a living thing that depends on you for its survival is very empowering and it fosters compassion in a child. Make sure your child knows how to care for his pet and always double check the food and water dishes because good habits take time to create and you don’t want your child to learn the hard way that pets die when they are not cared for. Teach your child but have his back!
9. Take time off!
Your obligations will be there when you return. Get someone to cover for you and take some time off to spend with your child. Better yet, make time every day where you just enjoy each other. Some of the most fun times I had was playing Candyland over and over again while my son beat the pants off me at it. (Honestly how many times can a person land on Mr. Plumpy? Are those dice rigged?)
I also loved having my kids, fresh out of the tub and in their jammies sitting with me on the couch as we watched 101 Dalmatians for the millionth time.
10. Hug your kids wherever and whenever you can.
While they are little, our kids hug warmly and with abandon. When my littlest was young he hung on me all the time. Everywhere I went, he was there in my arms or holding my hand. I look back and see photos of us everywhere, arms entwined and smiling. I took it for granted. Who knew that simply being in constant physical contact was the cause of so much happiness?
Before long, the hugs became more reserved and we no longer hold hands or wrap our arms around one another. I no longer ruffle his hair as he passes and he no longer lays in my lap begging for a back rub. He is a man now, not a little boy.
I miss it a lot. I would give anything to rock him in my lap all bundled up and smelling like baby shampoo just one more time.
Take these hugs and this love given so freely and without any inhibition. Kids learn all too soon that affection given so generously can result in broken hearts. Perhaps our unconditional acceptance of this love and these hugs can in some way form a protective barrier for our children from life’s most unforgiving realities.
This love and these hugs we receive from them are gifts far beyond any gift we will ever receive. Take them, cherish them and give them back. You and your child are a loving team and many times, in this life of hard edges and sometimes harsh realities, you need to come back together and rebuild the strength that comes from your closeness with each other.
I hope I have given you some helpful information. Above all else, your child loves you devotedly. Don’t turn your back on this gift or minimize it in any way. It is the most important thing in your life. It is your greatest source of joy.