10 Ways to Teach Your Kids to Be Happy

It’s amazing to me, as my children (9 and 6) progress through their days of school, that the most important lesson we could teach them appears in none of the classwork, homework or field trips.  We teach math and science, reading and writing.  We couch any subject that might not be immediately usable in the majority of our lives (algebra) in the critical skill set department of ‘problem solving’.  We all have to be good problem solvers to succeed in life.  Apparently life is just one long series of problems to be solved, vs. a life to be lived.

I’ve always imagined a place called Happiness University (HappyU – I know, a bit cheesy).  At HappyU, the education would be focused on how to ensure you go through your limited time on this planet being, if not happy, then at least underpinned by an ability to enjoy experiences.

For instance, I spent last night at a $57 La Quinta Inn near the Chicago O’Hare airport on a business trip.  I ate at a local steakhouse where I might have been the youngest by 20 years.  Away from my family, it wasn’t an easy place to be ‘happy’, but I certainly enjoyed myself listening to the group behind me explain, in detail, everything that was wrong with the French and Greek.  Apparently deep knowledge of the complex European Union financial structure comes with a baked potato and the french onion soup.

So I started thinking of actions I could do with my kids now that could help teach them how to be happy, or at least to enjoy the moment.  Here are 10.  But you have to do them together so they learn these are lifelong activities.  That forever in their world, they can do these activities and have the same sense of joy, peace and happiness.

  1. Do a home project, however small, with a real outcome.   Not a chore.  Having a sense of productivity and and outcome always gives one a sense of peace and accomplishment.  For me, even hanging a picture checks this box.

  2. Sit and watch cloud animals and shapes.  You’d be amazed at how quickly the creativity muscle kicks in, and it shows that it’s okay to relax, breath and absorb nature.

  3. Dunk a basketball.  Even today, I will lower my son’s hoop to 9 feet (that’s a lie, 8 feet MAYBE), and dunk.  Maybe dunk a soccer ball.  I can’t palm a basketball.  You just feel awesome dunking.  Try it.

  4. Write a story together.  Do it as a mad lib in fact.  Those are always a riot to kids and once the kids are laughing, try not to laugh with them.  Be ready for ‘fart’ in multiple places.

  5. Dig a hole in the sand.  Make a tunnel.  There is something awesome about the feeling of construction.  Since I can’t build things and am not terribly handy, we don’t do home projects of this caliber.  But I feel like a civil engineer completing a tunnel under the sand.

  6. Prepare food.  Food prep should never be a chore.  If you learn young that recipes are just guidelines and you can make whatever your heart desires, it becomes a form of meditation.

  7. Hunt for shells and rocks.  Exploration and discovery is in our DNA.  Unleash it.

  8. Write a thank you note.  This is a brutal skill to teach your kids, but every time I take 15 minutes to write a thank you (by hand), my life improves.  The other day I sent one to a local business because I liked their flowers.  I bet it improved their day too.

  9. Do jumping jacks.  Kids love jumping jacks.  Try not to feel better after you do 100.

  10. Learn and use a new word.  Do it with an old school dictionary.  Everyone loves to feel like they moved the brain muscle.

I get home from my business trip late tonight.  I’ll do one of these with the kids before school.  Probably dunk another soccer ball….

2 thoughts on “10 Ways to Teach Your Kids to Be Happy

  1. Stack firewood together, assemble a pool table, move their bedroom, build a snake cage, throw kid off a bridge to teach swimming, rescue kid to teach survival, serve leftovers with creative unusual salads, put up a satellite dish in 3 feet of snow at 20 degrees, send kid up 20-foot ladder to put Christmas lights on a giant tree, beat kid in board games, teach how to drive.

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