How many of us mums think this innocent sounding thought? (My hand is high in the air.) “I just want my kids to be happy”. It is fuelled by love. I don’t deny it’s well meaning but it wreaks havoc in our lives.
I am going to tell you a truth that you were probably never taught before.
We cannot make our children happy. Wait! There is good news too. The secret to our kids happiness is THEY create their own feelings with their thoughts. Thoughts like “I love this” when we take them to an ice-cream shop make them feel happy. It’s also possible that they could be thinking “this ice-cream shop is stupid, mum always chooses the WORST ice-cream shops!” which is going to make them feel unhappy. It means that when we try and make our kids happy, we end up feeling powerless.
The good news is, we create our own happiness with our thinking and we have control over our thinking!
Let me give you an example from my life (ahem I’m a work in progress too).
It’s school holidays. I met some school friends at our swimming class. We decide to have a play date in the park afterwards. They are having so much fun, I invite their friends around for dinner. I think this will make my kids happy. But when the family leaves my kids start complaining. Their friends played with their new favourite toys and it was annoying. They didn’t listen. The usual 5 and 7 year old complaints. My default response is to feel resentful. I invited their friends to make them happy. They should be happy goddamit. I feel like a frustrated mama bear wanting to teach them gratitude, patience, generosity because… in life when we master these skills, we function in society, good things happen in our life so we can be happy. I want them to be happy, so I’m terse and preachy. Guess what? I make the situation even worse! I don’t like the way I’m acting and neither do my kids.
What’s the alternative?
We can acknowledge that by default we act like mama bears trying to protect our kids and give them the best experiences in life so they can be happy. But that thought is poison. We end up feeling resentful, frustrated and powerless.
Instead we can know that our kids are human. They don’t feel happy all of the time. We don’t have the power to make them happy. We can then focus on what we can control. We can think about what kind of mum we want to be and consciously decide on the actions we want to take. Not for their happiness but actually for OURS.
Instead of relying on my kids happiness to make me feel like a good mum, I can simply decide ahead of time that I’m a good mum. I can invite our friends to dinner because I want to. I can give up the expectation that the kids feeling happy will make me feel a certain way. I can create those feelings for myself by thinking thoughts.
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Image by Krzysztof Niewolny