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The Happiness Connection  

5 essential parenting skills

When I taught elementary and middle school, I always found September the most challenging month.

The work I put in at the beginning of the academic year set the expectations for the months that followed.

In the words of Charles Haddon Spurgeon, “Begin as you mean to go on.”

This may resonate with parents who have sent their offspring back to school this past week. Readjusting to routine after the freedom of the summer requires an extra influx of energy.

Parenting is arguably both the most rewarding and the most challenging tasks you will ever encounter.

When your first youngster arrives, you may wonder how you missed out on the child-rearing gene. Every other parent seems to naturally know what to do. Or so it appears.

Parenting does not have a one size fits all manual that gets delivered with the arrival of your first baby. Even if it did, you wouldn’t find all the answers in it.

What works for one child, may not work for the next one.

This is something that every parent with multiple children knows. Even if they share the same biological parents, it is unlikely that each child will respond to parenting attempts in the same way.

Although people have been childrearing for as long as there have been family units, it is no different than any other life career. With experience comes skill and, let’s hope, wisdom.

Like anything, you are unlikely to get everything right the first time. Practice makes perfect.

Whenever I ask parents what they want most for their children, the most frequently given answer is they want them to be happy.

It’s common to believe the best way to achieve this is to protect children from challenges or solve their problems for them. You may make things easier in the short run, but it won’t serve them in the long term.

You may have the mistaken belief that if you wrap them up to protect them, tell them how smart they are, and direct their journey through school, you will achieve that.

These principles may look good on paper, but they will not guide your child to be a happy, self-sufficient adult.

Childhood is a time of learning and preparation.

If you want to groom your offspring for a happy adulthood, you must guide them to stand on their own two feet and trust their instincts.

Childhood is the best time to learn you are a resilient problem solver. How do you do that?

Here are five gifts you can give the students in your house if you want to prepare them to be happy and successful adults.

Let them fall

Letting your children fall is the only way they will learn how to get back up. That doesn’t mean you should abandon them. Be there to offer comfort and support, and to let them know you believe in them.

If you have ever been on a ski hill, you will know that falling is easier when you are five than when you are fifty.

Remind yourself that everyone has their own path

Your path won’t be the same as that of your children. Don’t assume what worked for you will work for them.

It is common for parents to believe their children can learn from the mistakes they made when they were younger. This isn’t true.

Learning is more about the process than the outcome. It is about taking calculated risks, examining options, and recovering from unexpected results.

The goal is to learn, not just get an A.

As they learn and grow, love your children, offer different viewpoints and advice, but don’t try to prevent them from making their own decisions and living with the consequences.

Model the skills you want your children to learn

Don’t be afraid to let your family see you struggle with a problem or behave in a less than perfect way. Show them the skills and tools you use when you let your emotions get the better of your common sense.

Apologize when you know you are in the wrong. Demonstrate your courage to try something new. Let them see how you pick yourself up from a fall and carry on.

Above all, show them that there is always something new to learn about themselves and the world they live in.

Honour effort and learning above natural ability

There is a misplaced belief that by telling your children how smart they are, you will strengthen their self belief. This is not the case.

You may not say it, but by praising intelligence and sporting prowess, your children may believe that’s why you love them. There is likely to be an inner worry that you won’t love them if they don’t do well.

This puts pressure on them to succeed rather than to learn. This makes it more difficult for them to take risks and try something new.

They will take the safe route rather than the one that would make them happier or give them more opportunities to learn. Research show that children who do well in school will cheat to do even better because they are focused on the grade rather than on the process.

Instead, let your children know that life is a learning game and that some things will come more easily to them than others. School should be more about learning than the marks on a test or report card.

Praise effort and progress. Natural ability is just a starting point. Encourage your children to see where they can go if they apply hard work and determination.

Don’t compare

See each child as an individual. Everyone is on their own journey through life; it isn’t a race or a competition. Emphasize co-operation and collaboration.

Encourage your children to cheer on family and friends and to want them to do the best they can. One person’s success doesn’t minimize anyone else’s. What is success for one child may look different for another.

Don’t buy into the mistaken belief that there is only so much happiness and success to go around. There is enough for everyone to enjoy.

These principles won’t only help parents who are getting ready for another week of school routine. They will help anyone of any age.

Imagine what life would be like if everyone knew how to be robustly happy? Now that’s a world I’d love to experience.



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How's your self-esteem?

I was speaking with a woman recently who separated from her husband.

A major life change like this requires adjustment. It takes time regardless of how amicable the split is.

What once seemed second nature may suddenly become difficult. In this case, she was finding it hard to focus on her professional life. Her marriage had given her the stability she needed to soar in her business.

With that piece no longer there, she felt ungrounded.

Just like anchors that are found in boats, emotional anchors keep you from drifting aimlessly. They provide a feeling of safety.

For many people, their life partner gives them this foundation.

The difficulty of giving such a major responsibility to another person is the problems that arise if they disappear from your life. You can anchor yourself to your business or a purpose, but they, too, can vanish.

It doesn’t take any wondrous power to figure out where I’m going with this thought. The one thing that will never vanish from your life is you. This is where you need to put your anchor.

How do you do that? By creating a secure anchor of self-esteem.

People who are self-confident believe they can overcome anything that happens in their life. They don’t live in an atmosphere of anxiety, control, or negativity. They trust they will be able to handle whatever is thrown at them.

I tend to use the words self-esteem and self-confidence interchangeably because their meanings are very similar, and I try not to repeat the same word too many times when I’m writing.

For the record:

  • self-esteem is how you feel about yourself.
  • self-confidence is how you feel about your abilities.

If you feel you aren’t good enough, it is your esteem that is suffering. Believing you can’t join a sports team because you are inept is confidence.

Because your abilities are closely tied to how you see yourself, I don’t make a distinction between the two words.

You may believe that you love and accept yourself; that your self-esteem is just fine, thank you very much.

A few years ago, I would have said the same thing. But as I’ve delved below the surface to uncover my beliefs about myself, I realize that may not be the case. Perhaps my self-esteem could use some additional work.

What does low self-esteem look like?

Let me share some common ways it presents itself. If any of these resonate with you, it doesn’t mean you don’t think highly enough of yourself – but it might.

My aim this week is to give you something to think about so you can go a little deeper in your understanding of yourself.

I don’t mean the person you think you should be. I’m talking about the real you that you may not share often with others.

  • Do you feel an urge to brag about your accomplishments?
  • Are you sensitive to criticism, and overly critical of yourself?
  • Do you give up easily when something become difficult?
  • Do you judge yourself and people on material possessions? This may include buying things you can’t really afford, to impress others.
  • Are decisions difficult for you to make because you worry other people won’t agree with your choice?
  • Do you have difficulty saying no?
  • Do you struggle to stand up for yourself, or are you overly aggressive?
  • Do you love to be the centre of attention, even if it is for negative reasons?
  • Are you rebellious, often for no reason other than to be a rebel?

How many times did you answer yes? These are things commonly found in people with low self-esteem.

As I was compiling this list, I recognized just how low my self-esteem was when I was younger. More important, I realize there is more I can do to improve how I feel about myself.

Self-development is a process that has no finish line. There is always more to learn and strength to be gained.

When you notice your lack of self-esteem kick in, acknowledge its existence, but don’t let negative chatter get started. Instead treat yourself they way you would your best friend.

What would you say if they started beating themselves up for being overweight, useless, or stupid?

That’s what you need to say to yourself.



Take Marilyn's advice

Being alone does not mean you are lonely.

I’ve talked about loneliness before, but based on the discussions I’ve been having lately, I think it is time for a revisit.

How do you feel about being on your own? It could be living alone, going to a movie by yourself, or going for a solo spa weekend.

For many people, being alone carries a negative connotation. Social stigma implies you are alone because you don’t have a choice. It’s as if you are being told that no normal person would choose to be alone if they had the opportunity to have company.

Perhaps this comes from the drive to procreate,which requires having a partner. Maybe it results from the necessity in primitive times for humans to act together as one unit if they wanted to survive.

Regardless of the reason, it can be challenging to be single again after years of being part of a couple. It is common to yearn for another person to share your life with. No one wants the perceived discomfort that comes with being alone.

It’s important to understand that although humans are ultra-social animals, they can be perfectly happy on their own. It is no less desirable than being wth other people.

I grew up feeling insecure about who I was. I needed the company of friends to feel courageous. I’d miss out on adventures if I didn’t have someone to go with me.

When I was newly married, we went to Australia. One place we visited was the Great Barrier Reef. We had the opportunity to go snorkeling, but my husband was uncomfortable being in deep water. I didn’t want to go on my own, so I missed out.

I believed that unless I was with someone else, people would perceive me as friendless. In my eyes, being alone at a movie, social event, or restaurant, carried a level of shame. What was wrong with me that I couldn’t find a partner?

I’m both older and wiser. I no longer carry this belief. Being alone has nothing to do with being lonely unless you want it to.

Being alone is a desire to have time by yourself. It is both empowering and powerful.

Being lonely comes from victim energy. Rather than standing in your personal power, you feel you have been forced into an undesirable situation.

Even if you feel lonely, you have the power to change your perspective. See it as a chance to spend quality time with yourself and design a dream date.

It is time to stop assuming that people on their own have no other option.

Even if you love doing things with your friends, choosing to go somewhere by yourself can be a refreshing and powerful change. Rather than wondering if your partner is having fun, you can focus on yourself. There is no reason to compromise when you are the only one involved.

I love to watch movies on the big screen. I often invite family and friends to accompany me, but if no one is available, I happily go on my own.

I have learned to make decisions for my social calendar that I am happy to do solo or with company. It takes the pressure off everyone involved. If my friends drop out, I don’t feel compelled to do the same. I can go on my own.

If you enjoy your time alone, it makes no difference whether the people around you think you have no friends or not. You know the truth.

This was hard for me to learn. I was so indoctrinated to worry what other people thought, that it shaped my life for many years. I still have moments when I return to that old way of thinking, but when that happens, I remind myself what other people think of me is none of my business.

A short personal pep talk usually has me back into my personal power and ready to greet the world on my terms.



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You are the creator

My mom and dad have an amazing neighbour who helps them with all sorts of things. Recently, he pruned the trees and bushes at the back of their house.

The result was a big pile of clippings that needed to be hauled off.

My mom told me about all the work that had been done and how much brighter it was in their house. She also expected the strata’s landscaping company to be a problem.

She anticipated there would be a fight to get them to haul the pile of branches away.

Her comments caught my attention for two reasons.

Setting an intention for what is going to happen, affects the outcome. If you assume something is going to be difficult, or result in a fight, there is a greater chance that it will.

Think about your attitude when you expect to have a problem, versus the times you think everything will happen effortlessly?

Your facial expressions are likely to be different.

Your tone invites the response you expect.

If you want life to be easier and more peaceful, consciously set an intention that everything will go smoothly, rather than with difficulty. Your brain will look for evidence to support your attitude, so choose wisely.

The other thought that came to mind revolves around attachment to outcomes. If I do this, you will react like this.

It exists on the assumption that we know what other people will do in specific situations.

This is what my mother did.

She wanted the clippings to be taken away and decided to put her mental energy into believing it had to be done by the landscape company, and it would require a fight to get them to do it.

If there is one thing I know about people, it is their unpredictability, especially if you don’t know them well.

Set your intention without deciding how everything should unfold. I’ve been working on this skill for the past year, so let me give you an example from my life.

Recently, I made a poor choice for internet security. I realized this quickly and set an intention to recoup my money. The outcome I wanted was to get a refund, but there is no guarantee that will happen.

With an attachment to the result, anything other than getting my money back would trigger negativity. Anger and frustration are both exhausting states to be in, especially for an extended period.

I can’t control what other people do, so I can’t manipulate outcomes that involve others. With a new let’s-see-what-happens approach, I chose an action and then waited to see the response before decided on my next step.

I don’t expect the best or the worst.

I hope to get at least some of my money refunded, but I recognize that might not happen. I’m letting the situation unfold, rather than thinking it’s my way or the highway and I’m trying not to dwell on it.

Does detaching from the outcome mean I want my money back any less?

No.

Will it cause me to put less effort into my actions?

No.

It does, however, save me from settling into a storm of negativity.

I am getting a lot of time to practise detachment. My communication with this company has been going on for almost three months without any resolution.

I’ll keep working on it, but who knows what the result will be.

In my Mom’s case, she could have saved herself a few days of worry if she had detached from believing she knew what the outcome would be.

As it turned out, they took the branches away without any problem.

I’m a fan of not crossing bridges until I need to. I’m learning to accept the possibility that there may be more than one bridge that will get me where I want to go.

You can’t prepare to cross a bridge until you know which one, you’ll be taking. It’s a little like playing chess. You can think about possible moves, but you can’t commit yourself until you see what your opponent does.

  • Set your intention
  • Accept that there is more than one way it can be achieved, or that it may not happen at all.
  • Decide on a first step and do it.
  • Wait to see what the result is before spending more mental energy on your next step.

I have found this practice challenging, but the peace it brings to my life is reward enough to make it a worthwhile struggle.

If you don’t like living in drama, releasing your attachment to specific outcomes could be just what you need to achieve more peace and ease.

As Doris Day sang:

"Que sera sera. Whatever will be will be. The future’s not ours to see. Que sera sera."



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About the Author

Reen Rose is an experienced, informative, and engaging speaker, author, and educator. She has worked for over three decades in the world of education, teaching children and adults in Canada and England.

Research shows that happy people are better leaders, more successful, and healthier than their unhappy counterparts, and yet so many people still believe that happiness is a result of their circumstances.

Happiness is a choice. Reen’s presentations and workshops are designed to help you become robustly happy. This is her term for happiness that can withstand challenge and change.

Reen blends research-based expertise, storytelling, humour, and practical strategies to both inform and inspire. She is a Myers Briggs certified practitioner, a Microsoft Office certified trainer and a qualified and experienced teacher.

Email Reen at [email protected]

Check out her websites at www.ReenRose.com, or www.ModellingHappiness.com



The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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