As parents, we wish many things for our children. Things like love, safety, good health, and happiness. And joy. I want my children to have lives full of joy. You might wonder if joy is different than happiness. I think that it is. Happiness is a momentary feeling that may disappear when the moment passes. Often it is dependent on outside factors and influences. Joy comes from something much deeper. It comes from being at peace with who you are and your place in the world. It requires acceptance of your life and what you can and can’t control. Joy is finding contentment in your life and the peacefulness that comes with it. I want to teach my children to have joy in their lives and in themselves. And I’m sure you do as well. Here are some ways you can teach kids joy.
1. Find Joy in Your Own Life
Teaching a new skill to kids usually starts with mastering the skill for yourself. If you want to teach kids joy than your own life needs to show them what it is. If your life and attitude reflect negativity, stress, and unhappiness it’s going to be next to impossible to teach your kids joy. They will have no idea what it looks like.
A joyful life is a worthy goal all by itself but it becomes even more important when you want to teach kids joy and have them experience it through you. Are you joyful? Joy is deeper than happiness. It survives circumstances and life changes intact. It’s a way living that reflects looking for the good and the peaceful even when life is difficult and chaotic.
Most of us could use a tune up when it comes to living joyfully. What would make your life more joyful? When you figure out what it is that brings you joy you can bring more of it into your life. This may mean focusing on self-care, exercise or meditation. Or pursuing favorite hobbies and more spending time with friends. It’s different for every person and important to figure out for yourself and for your family.
Becoming a joyful parent adds another layer. But finding the sources of joy in your own life will help you bring more joy to parenting. And will benefit your family in any number of ways. Like many things, when you’re doing it for your children, it’s much easier to find motivation and make it a priority.
2. Create a Joyful Home and Family Life
Creating joyful habits in the home is a wonderful way to teach kids joy. Make it a point to count your blessings as a family. And teach your children about gratitude. I’ve created a bedtime ritual with my kids of asking them what was their favorite part of the day. And asking what they are thankful for. This helps us to end the day on a joyful note and I hope teaches them to reflect on things that made them happy.
Spending time together as a family is a great way to teach kids joy. Studies have shown that spending money on experiences rather than things makes children happier over the long term. Your entire family will experience more joy from time spent together than from material possessions. And the experiences don’t have to be big. Create small rituals your kids can depend on daily or weekly that involve quality family time. Game nights, movie nights, after dinner walks, and family dinners can all be a part of creating a joyful family life.
A joyful family has fun together, laughs together, and just plain enjoys being in each other’s company. I don’t know about you, but that is the kind of family I want for my kids.
3. Demonstrate Kindness
One of the greatest joys in life is caring for others. Knowing you have the power to help out another person and bring them happiness is empowering for kids. If you want to teach kids joy, teach them to give.
When you see someone helping others, it’s inspiring. And this is even more true for a child witnessing a parent’s act of kindness or giving.
There are so many ways you can teach kids the joy that comes from giving. This may mean a family day of volunteering at a school or church activity. But it can also be as simple as teaching your child to care for a pet or help out a neighbor or a sibling. The psychological rewards of giving are well documented. But it’s the soul that really benefits. Teaching your kids the joy that comes from kindness will serve them well all of their lives.
4. Point Out Joyful Things in Everyday Life
One of the simplest ways to teach kids joy is to help them look for it. My daughter and I frequently take walks around our neighborhood. Yesterday we saw a beautiful butterfly. Watching it together was a joyful moment. On another walk, my youngest daughter threw her sister’s stuffed toy out of the stroller without my noticing. A few minutes later a man rode up on a bike, stuffed animal in hand, asking if it was ours. He went out of his way to help us and I’m so grateful. What an awesome lesson that was for my daughters in kindness.
This doesn’t have to be complicated. If your child has a playdate and shares with their friend, point out how happy it made both of them. Or when they witness a kind act between friends, or even on a television show, let them know this is what joy looks like. And what it does for making lives better.
There is a world full of joy out there. Joyful things both big and small are all around us. We’re all busy, but it’s important to take the time to notice. And teach your kids to notice too.
5. Teach Your Child to Avoid Negativity
There are many hard things in life. Hard times and difficult tasks. It’s easy to get mired down in negativity when we focus on the bad things. But the reverse is also true. The good in the world and the beauty of everyday life are worth looking for. And are all around us.
It’s easy for all of us to fall into a pattern of negative thinking. Complaining, venting, whatever you want to call it, are all fairly common. But when it becomes a way of life you are setting yourself and your family up for unhappiness.
Pay attention to the people your child spends time with. It can be challenging, but important to teach them to avoid negative people. And patterns of negative thoughts. If your child seems to be developing a habit of negative thinking or spiraling worries, work with them to develop new habits and overcome negative thoughts. Here is an article with tips for overcoming negative thinking in young children. Negativity is an obstacle to joyful living. One we sometimes need help to get past.
A Life Filled with Joy
Learning to choose joy is something that will benefit your children all of their lives. Joy is the root of contentment and peace. And it helps kids develop compassion, empathy, and kindness. All things we could use more of in the world. But it doesn’t always come naturally. I hope you can use these ideas to teach kids joy and you all benefit from a life filled with the contentment that brings your family.