Saturday, July 23, 2011

A Happy Child

I know some parents have the mentality that it's not their job to make sure their children are happy.  If their children are too happy, they aren't doing their jobs as parents.  Some parents believe it's their job to make sure their kids are prepared for the big, bad disappointment of the real world.  Some parents take pleasure in deliberately making their children unhappy. 

I say, "Huh?"

I mean, I'm not a perfect parent and certainly my kiddo isn't happy all of the time...let alone happy with me all of the time.  Heck, a few minutes ago, she got all grumpy because I told her it was time to head upstairs for her bath.

But mostly, I want my child to be happy and it's my pleasure as her mother to say and do things that help her feel happy.  I don't say, "No" just for the sake of saying it and if I do refuse something she's requested of me and asks, "Why?", I try to help her understand without falling back on the lame-o, "Because I said so."

That's not to say she's the boss of the house.  She's not.  Not by a long shot.

I don't want my kiddo thinking that she doesn't have a voice.  Some parents think that kids shouldn't have any say in the house rules, that kids shouldn't be allowed to make decisions.

I say, "Fooey."  My kid isn't going to be the kind of person who has to figure out at age 18 how to navigate life.  I find it both entertaining and dismaying when parents just expect their 18-year-olds to be perfect adults when they haven't given their kids a chance to learn what it even means to be an adult.  I get the concept of learning through modeling, but kids need a chance to practice for themselves!

My kiddo understands our house rules and why they're in place.  We let her have some say in the development of our house rules.  Yelling is reserved for emergencies.  No hitting, no pinching, no biting, no kicking, no scratching, no screaming...unless someone is trying to kidnap or hurt you, and then that person is fair game for whatever you can dish out.  No lying.  No secrets.  If you're a guest and you think you can get away with saying a bad word or calling someone a not-nice name, you better watch out.  She'll be on you in a flash, lecturing you about manners and what is and what is not acceptable in our home.

Granted, it's based on what we as her parents are teaching her.  We're aware that she's always watching and listening and learning from us.  She's in elementary school, but that doesn't stop me from teaching her about what's acceptable and what isn't.  She's young, but it doesn't stop me from sharing some of the details of our financial situation and what we can and cannot reasonably afford.  And if there's something she wants that we can't afford, she helps with coming up with a plan to budget for it. 

I guess in our home, we try not to say, "No" too often and I'm finding now that when we do say, "No", she takes it seriously.  We believe in the power of, "Yes!" and "Sure!" and "Well, not yet, but let's see what we can do."  My hope is that by being more cheerful and optimistic than negative, it's teaching her realistic and positive ways to approach real-life problems and come up with solutions.  She's started small--for example, she wanted more time to read at night, but I wasn't willing to make her bedtime any later than it was.  She came up with the solution of skipping 20 minutes of television and swapping her leisurely baths for quicker showers.  Her solution, not mine.  I didn't even present her with options.  I just said, "Well, what do you think you can change to have more time for reading before bed?"  I never implied that she had to sacrifice anything.  She gave it some thought and came up with a solution that worked for her.  And some nights, when she wants to watch a little television or play in the bath, she knows she gets her regular amount of reading time.  She's learning about decisions and actions and consequences.

My hope is that these small decisions now help her make good decisions in the future.  Of course, I say that now, but we'll see what happens when she becomes a teenager.

Anyway.

I want my kiddo to be happy as much as possible.  Happiness is a state of mind, a feeling, an emotion.  Happiness is action.  Happiness is whatever we choose to be.  Some people think that happiness is random and fleeting and doesn't last.  To a degree, I agree with that--I can be happy because of things and events and yes, that's temporary.  Real joy, for me, comes from remembering that happiness and experiencing it all over again.  That's something I want to teach my daughter. 

I want her to know that she should be prepared for disappointment and then choose to be happy anyway.

I think the world has a lot of good and a lot of bad in it and I want her to feel like her parents and her home are where she can run to, no matter how old she is, when things get really hard or really painful.  The world and the people in it are going to hurt and disappoint her enough without me adding to it.  My kiddo has never flinched in fear or had to hide from me or her dad.  She trusts us to keep her safe and not hurt her and I want her to always feel that good about our relationship.  It's not to say that we can shield her from everything bad, I know we can't.

1 comment:

Margaret said...

Your girl was so sweet when we talked about our favorite parts of the movie yesterday!