With the summer approaching, we can use this time off from school to focus on raising children that are truly happy and satisfied with their lot in life. Happiness is available to all who want it.
If we look around us, we see children complaining about luxuries that our grandparents would have been nothing less than extremely grateful for.
“Uch, we are having chicken for dinner!” (Ask your grandparents how hard they worked to get a chicken from a farm to a slaughterhouse, to their tables.)
“Uch, I don’t want to go to the park. (Isn’t playing on a slide and swing a special activity?)
“Why did you buy me this coat? I wanted the other one.” (Aren’t you just lucky to have a nice warm cozy coat to wear to the bus stop?)
Recently, I even heard a teenager joking about how he needs motion sensors on his bedroom door in order to save him the hassle of telling Alexa to turn the lights on when he walks in.
Our ancestors would be shocked at the luxuries and amenities we live with today. Clearly Hashem wanted us to have the luxuries in our generation such as washing machines, chickens that we do not have to go to the farm to get, fast food, warm clothing we can buy in stores, etc. But we should never lose sight of the ways Hashem taught us to view these things.
The Source of Happiness
We all know that happiness comes from truly being happy with one’s lot in life. That means not looking at what others have, what others are doing, what dinner you “could’ve” and “should’ve” had.
We need to teach our children from a young age that happy people look at what they have, and miserable people look at what they do not have. We also must tell them that nobody owes them anything in life, that happy people know that and unfortunately many people walk around with a sense of entitlement. Talk to your children out loud about how lucky you feel to be able to breathe, to see, or to have any material items or conveniences or luxuries in life. Model, model, and then model some more.
Focus on Life’s Gifts – Not Entitlement
When our children talk to us like we owe them something, our response should be, “I know you would never mean it like this, and when you ask that way, it comes across like you think someone owes you something, and I know you don’t really think that. If you would like to ask me in a way that shows that you know that nobody owes you anything, you can ask me and I will tell you yes or no.” Notice that last part – “yes or no.” Children need to know that it’s not good for them to have everything they want in life.
It’s very healthy for our children to feel disappointed or frustrated. We do not need to jump in and fix anything. Just be there for your child and show a relaxed calm confidence when you decide to say no. It is one of the greatest gifts you can give your children.
It is my hope that we are all able to spend our summers focusing on the gifts we have and embracing the challenges as well, so we lead our children in the ways of gratitude and joy.
Practical Applications of Raising Your Children
Model that you are very happy with what you have. While it is normal to feel disappointed at times, show your children how you acknowledge your disappointments and move on.
Model for your children that you truly believe that if you do not have something right now, it means it would not be good for you to have it right now. We can always pray for a change of future events. However, in the present moment, if I do not have it, it means Hashem has determined that I do not need it.