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OPINION: Raising Happy Children

If you're happy and you know it, then your face will surely show it.

Happiness is defined in Merriam-Webster Dictionary as “a state of well-being and contentment; a pleasurable or satisfying experience.” When asked what their greatest wish is for their children, the majority of parents (by a long shot) answer in a single word: “happiness.” While parents want their children to grow up to love and be loved, to follow their dreams and to find success, nothing quite fills a parent’s heart so much as knowing that his child is truly, undeniably and completely happy. 

We want our children to be happy above all else. We want to see smiles on their faces, love in their hearts and we want to instill in them a passion for life. This desire for happiness -  a feeling which is immeasurable but holds the weight of the world - is paramount. 

The kind of happiness described does not come from dripping ice cream cones covered in chocolate jimmies, sitting in the front row of the circus with colorful dancing clowns at arms reach or watching a chubby puppy bound across the lawn without a care in the world. While these experiences surely make kids happy, this happiness is temporary. 

Living a happy life is not external to us - it is something which comes from within. 

If, as the well known proverb says, money can’t buy happiness, then how is happiness obtained? How can parents aid in their children’s happiness? According to author of Raising an Optimistic Child: A Proven Plan for Depression-Proofing Young Children -- for Life, Bob Murray PhD, "The research clearly shows that happy, optimistic children are the product of happy, optimistic homes, regardless of genetic makeup." Ultimately, happiness begets happiness.

In Ready to Learn: How to Help Your Preschooler Succeed, author Stan Goldberg, Ph.D, offers this explanation, “If you shift your search for happiness from the future to the present, from what your child may be able to do in the future to what he or she can do now, from goals to journeys, you'll find the happiness that eludes many parents.” 

Many parents base their own happiness on their children’s successes and accomplishments. Dr. Goldberg suggests that this is not the path to happiness. Happiness is, instead, something which is completely dependent on how you view things. Live “the glass is half full” life and your children will likely adopt the same attitude. 

For those who strive to give their children the gift of lasting happiness, the key lies in exuding happiness yourself. Beyond this, show them how much you love them (verbally and physically and often), make them feel important, praise them and play with them. Happy children smile, laugh and feel joy. Above all, they feel a sense of peace no matter what is going on in the external world. 

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