It’s easy to get caught up with the holiday season’s rush of preparation, planning, and hosting get-togethers. And now, it’s almost over, as we are looking into the face of January and a bright new year.
When speaking with families, I’m often struck by how relieved parents feel as the year progresses. This is why it seems like a common experience. The Holidays add an extra layer of activity to an already active family life. This seems to be the theme of relief.
Yet, we seem bound by the activities and often surrender to more of the ‘doing’ of life while ignoring who we, as a family, are ‘becoming. In some ways, we may be missing the boat. Maybe you have sensed this for a while and realized that more activity, more entertainment, more stuff, and more ‘doing all the time’ is not a strategy for finding satisfaction and happiness. It is not to say that all activity is good. That would be foolish.
Instead, I want clarity. Clarity about what’s important to choose for our families.
3 Seeds of Happiness & Satisfaction to Sew This New Year
1 — Reduce the ‘noise level’ in your family life.
This must be number one for most people. What is it? It is the constant noise invading your life. It is all around us now. We often expose our children and ourselves to the noise. It’s coming to us from social media, the news, the phone (incessant texting), the radio, the TV, video games, friends calling, etc.
Our brains respond to this noise by listening and responding to it. We often hear strong judgments and fear-driven thoughts, which can lead us to a world of more judgment. This is what our children hear growing up. As they get older, we expose them to more of their noise.
Happiness Secret: Make a commitment to certain times and refrain from external noises Maybe it’ll be after dinner, or all day Sunday. You can take a walk every day without your phone or earbuds. You can start anywhere you want. To be able to keep your promise, it must be precise. Your family might be frustrated for a while, and it may take some time to adjust. But, you’ll soon be able to focus on what is important and your options for happiness will increase.
2 — Eliminate repeating the same thing over and over. Neglecting happiness is a hinderance to your happiness.
For many of us, we nag because we don’t know what else to do to get things done. It’s a simple mistake, but this points to a flaw in our parenting. Even though our children know better than us, we continue to repeat the same thing over and again. What is the problem? Most likely not.
It’s worse. The nagging eventually robs your child’s self-esteem and makes it difficult to cultivate happiness. The endgame is not in sight as kids grow more dependent and less independent with age.
Happiness Secret: Quit repeating yourself and discover what happens. Nothing will ever self-destruct. They might miss a bus, be late, or even not wear socks on a cold morning. You can bet they will get through all of that, so take a chance and see what happens.
When things don’t work out well, turn toward an action plan. Find a better parenting formula that doesn’t involve more nagging and repetition. It will make everyone feel better.
3 — Stop Giving Everything They Want, Thinking This Will Make Them Happy. It won’t.
It’s natural for us to want to give our kids more than we had growing up. We see that children desire more as they get older. This could be summed up in another way: When children are constantly wanting, they will get more. This is not about more happiness or satisfaction. (It doesn’t make wanting bad, of course, it’s the incessant seeking of more OVER the appreciation of what they have that creates the problem.)
The internet, gaming, social media and social media are an extension to this. As children get older, any question or impulse (for instant satisfaction) is promptly answered. Add to this the fact that parents find themselves now reacting to children making plans and then informing mom of where she ‘needs to take me.’ The more these moments are instantly fulfilled, the more demand increase without gains in life satisfaction or happiness.
Happiness Secret: Don’t be a continuous wish fulfiller. Teach them how to achieve their own goals.
There are two lessons. The first is to be self-motivated. We want our children to learn that they have the power to control their fate and make their own decisions. If my efforts are minimal and I get every wish fulfilled immediately, then I will believe other people should fulfill all of my wishes. This is not how the world works. It’s also a recipe for misery.
The second lesson: Find joy with what you have and create what’s next from a joyful state. We want children to learn to fulfill wishes from a state of fullness, not a state of ‘lack,’ This is true magic when it comes to creating a life of happiness and ease. I will be writing more about this topic in the coming years!
Now, I want to say: Happy, peaceful, prosperous and joyful New Year!
Dr. Randy Cale, a Clifton Park-based psychologist, author, speaker, and speaker, provides practical guidance on a variety of parenting issues. His website, www.TerrificParenting.com, offers free parenting guidance and an email newsletter. You can review past articles on The Record, The Saratogian and The Community News to learn more. Submit questions to [email protected]