Growing Children Into Happy Adults
Whenever you ask a parent what they want for their children as they grow into adulthood, a typical answer is “I just want them to be happy.” That makes sense, considering we usually want the same thing for ourselves and for everyone we love. But you can’t guarantee happiness for someone. You can’t teach “how to be happy”. But you can cultivate and grow the traits that happy people usually possess. Here is one that I think helps grow children into happy adults.
If you want your child to be happy, then teach them to be grateful.
Having an attitude of gratitude is a fundamental stepping stone to being happy. People who are grateful are focused on their blessings and their perspective in life is filtered through this attitude. They are able to see the silver lining in the clouds because they are looking for the thing to be grateful for in their circumstance. Being grateful cultivates a positive attitude. Ungrateful people usually expect life to be a certain way and miss out on the blessings that surround them when life doesn’t quite look like the picture they’ve imagined for themselves.
Having an attitude of expecting is probably the arch nemesis of being grateful. It leads to being chronically disappointed. And because the attitude of expecting puts the expectation on someone or something else, it leads to a “why me” or “poor me” response when things don’t work out, which leaves you feeling defeated. But in contrast, a grateful attitude is open to possibilities because it sees blessings all around, which leads to feeling hopeful. When our children expect to get something at the store every time they enter its doors or expect to be entertained every minute of the day, they cultivate an attitude of others owing them things. They also connect happiness with material things or temporary moments of pleasure that are sure to fade. And when the expectation is always for something external to make us happy, it will most likely end in disappointment. Eventually things will never be good enough or perfect enough for us. But being grateful is an internal thing. It requires you to look within and discover the good in the bad. To find the diamond in the rough.
We have to train our kids to be grateful. We have to be grateful ourselves. At night, I have my kids tell God what they are thankful for that day. Some nights the list goes on and on, but I don’t mind. I know that they are learning to count their blessings…to be grateful. When I’m driving down the road, sometimes I’ll tell my kids to look out the window and find the mountains. I tell them how lucky they are to live here. A few weeks ago, I was in the car yelling about something. I can’t remember, but I was probably yelling at my kids to stop yelling. Anyways, that’s another subject, but my son said, “Look mommy! Look at the mountains. Aren’t we so lucky to live here?” Now, that may have been a manipulative moment where he was trying to distract me from the current topic at hand, but it could also have been him trying to remind me how much I have to be grateful for during loud car rides. I’d like to think that was his way of finding the silver lining in my cloud.