“When I became a mother a few years ago, a friend asked me what I want most for my son. After thinking about it, I surprised myself with this reply:
“I want him to be healthy, independent, and kind.”
Why focus on kindness?
Ask parents what they want above all for their kids and most will say “happiness.” It’s what we’re all seeking, really. And we’re seeking it all the time, regardless of age, race, gender, or religion. But for some, happiness can be hard to find.
The big question is this:
- Can we be more in control of our happiness?
- Can we teach our children to be more in control of their happiness?
I spent most of 2016 researching this. Turns out – and to borrow the words of a wise man – yes, we can.
The life-changing magic of being compassionate
“Our mind works significantly better when positive than when negative, stressed, or even neutral!”
Our personal experience of happiness is determined by three main things:
- Positive actions.
The first two are more difficult to control. The easiest and most powerful way to influence our own happiness is by far through the third item: Intentional positive actions that we commit to practicing every day. Studies have shown that this can determine how happy we are by up to 40%. The positive actions that have been scientifically proven to be most effective at increasing our sense of happiness include: Acts of kindness, expressing gratitude, journaling, and meditation.
Ok, so I understood why I wanted my son to grow up to be kind and compassionate. Which led me to the next question I asked myself: How can I help him learn to be this way?
Modeling desired behavior is one very important way to do this. As the saying goes “monkey see, monkey do.” And while our children may not be monkeys, they learn much about the world through observation and imitation. As parents we need to regularly demonstrate kindness and compassion – to ourselves and to others – so we normalize it to our children.
“Not every day is good, but there is something good in everyday.”
The next best thing to do is to build a happiness habit right from the start. By encouraging your child to take several minutes of each day to refocus their mind toward personal aspirations and accomplishments, the most joyful moments of their day, to take note of the kindness they experienced from others in the day, and setting an intention for kind acts tomorrow, can actually reprogram their mindset and behavior to become more positive in order to create more success, happiness and reward in their lives. Do this yourself as well!
“Children who learn how to be happy when they are young, carry the lesson throughout their lives.”
The digital age has made it possible for our children to have unregulated access to more content than any previous generation. As a result, it can seem at times as though the world is becoming colder and evermore unkind, filled with negative people and sad events. However, seeing things this way is not only unhealthy but also fundamentally untrue. It’s important and stunningly restorative to teach our children – and remind ourselves – that the world is, for the most part, a good place.