Teaching Kids The Real Meaning of Happiness

     I recently overheard a conversation going on right next to me between two people. They were discussing the outrageous amount of money that rich people throw away every day on non-sense type of stuff. One of them said that if they could only have a few million dollars, all their problems would go away.

That comment really caught my attention. It made me wonder how many kids believe that money solves all problems or that money can create complete happiness because I was that kid. I used that used to think that because I’d heard people say that around me.

But very soon after, when I became a teenager I learned that those beliefs were merely myths. Overhearing that conversation and thinking back to what I used to believe about people with monetary wealth made me reflect on what “rich” people’s hardships might look like.

I thought a bit on what it must feel like to wake up each day knowing that if something were to happen to their loved one’s health, the last thing they’d have to worry about would be how to pay the insurance bill.

Sure, they’d be devastated about a health challenge. But in a way, is their angst lessened due to their wealth?

I don’t know. I’ll never know because everyone is different. The point of this story is that we all have different views on wealth. I used to think that I’d want to grow up to become rich, own a big mansion and drive a Lamborghini.

Maybe I thought I wanted this because the first home I lived in was no more than probably 800 sq. ft. As I got older, my parents were able to afford a bigger home and as an adult I’ve had the opportunity of owning a spacious home.

Then, one day someone asked me how satisfied I was with how my adult life turned out. I didn’t become “rich” and I didn’t buy the Lamborghini, but I did realize that I turned out to have a very happy life. I also realized that what I’d wanted as a child was to have comfort and safety.

My life became whole due to the experiences I had and the things I’ve done for myself and for others. I realized that most of the things I hold valuable are not the material things, but the meaningful ones that have made me grow into who I am.

While reflecting on the way people think of riches, I began to think about the things that parents might do that could give children a misunderstanding of what “riches” really are.

For example, when we buy our kids things that aren’t needs we enjoy seeing their excitement. They tell us they’re happy with their toys and if they’re used to constantly getting gifts they might start measuring their happiness by the amount of presents they get for their birthday or for gift giving holidays.

It’s scary to think that innocent gift giving might be the cause of misinterpretation of happiness.

It’s a dangerous fine line, but if we have conversations about needs versus wants, and about what really makes us happy, then we’ll most likely raise kids who will not measure happiness with material things.

However, if you’ve noticed that your child starts expecting gifts for every occasion or doesn’t give family time much value, then you might want to look out for other clues that indicate you have to make some changes. Here are some of the clues to be weary of:

  1. Every time you go to a store, they expect you to buy them something. Even if it’s a fifty cent item. Even when you give in to the fifty cent item, knowing it will end up in the garbage doesn’t excuse your from aiding the problem. You have to show them that money can’t be spent for just anything. And you’ll teach your kids about financial responsibility. In case you give in, try to bargain with them. Propose they give up three toys for a new one. 
  2. People continue to tell you that it’s impossible for them to buy your kids something for holidays or birthdays because you’ve already purchased it for them. Kids don’t need a lot of toys (or any at all in my opinion) to be happy or entertained. Whatever happened to using one’s imagination or making one’s own toys with things around the house? After all, that’s what leads to modern inventions. Propose they get creative around the house.

  3. Your kids are constantly asking, “We’re eating at home? We’re not going out to eat?” I get it, cooking is exhausting and daunting sometimes, but you can make it fun by involving them in the food preparation process and trying new foods. You might even want to try calling it something fun so they have something to look forward to. You can add family game time right after dinner or have family sharing time during dinner. For example, I’ve noticed that during dinner my kids and their friends loved it when we’d go around the table and share about the best part of our day. This is the time when we can get our 15 minutes of conversation with each persona and before you know it, you’ve had over an hour of real one-on-one quality time with the family (hence, instilling the sense of what really matters).

  4. Whey they say, “I really like to have this one. Isn’t cute?” Be very careful! This one is a soft spot for parents because cute faces are deployed into action. Kids are excellent at persuasion and manipulation. To be honest, my first thought when I’d hear something like this is, “Nope! It’s not cute enough to buy” or “Not $15.00 cute”. But seriously, ask your kiddos if it’s a want or a need. Ask them questions that will help them understand what wants and needs are. Give examples of what a want is. Usually, it helps to explain that if the item will help them get smarter, grow healthier or be truly happy if they lost everything and it helped them survive, then it’s worth purchasing. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying don’t ever buy kids anything unnecessary. I’m just saying that we have to teach kids that we can’t go around buying everything we like. Otherwise, we’d own stores full of our favorite things that we’d probably have little use for. 
  5. When your child is constantly telling people that they have more things than others or that their house is better. A class on humility would be useful here. When a child believes everyone’s access to resources is the same as theirs or as easy as theirs, “Houston, we’ve got a problem”. It’s time to have a nice chat with the kiddos and explain that not everyone is as privileged and that not everyone wants to have as much as other people. Some people love being minimalists, so having less doesn’t mean that people are unhappy.
  6. When they throw tantrums and tell you that you don’t love them because you won’t budge. If this is happening, this is probably a huge sign that you’ve had a hand in your kid’s perception of how love is measured. It’s definitely time to make changes. I’m not saying you’re a bad parent. It can happen to any of us, but it definitely means that your child needs to be taught that love doesn’t come in the form of material gifts.

I can go on and on about the funky things kids say when they confuse things for real happiness. But this can be changed. Parenting is hard. We’re just trying to figure things out and we make mistakes, but as soon as we recognize them we try to correct them.

The most important thing is that we have a real understand of what genuine happiness is and that we teach it to our children so we can raise kids who appreciate and value the things that really matter.

Do you have tips on how kids can be taught the meaning of true happiness? Share them in the comments below, we love hearing from our readers and sharing knowledge!

Until Next Time,


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