By Leighton Smith
A few years ago I had a candid chat with a friend. I asked him what he hoped his kids would be when they ‘grow up’. The conversation wasn’t meant to be too deep and meaningful, just a bit of banter between two mates about one of our favourite topics at the time…the kids. He looked at me in all seriousness and said, ‘I just want my kids to survive and be happy.’ It wasn’t the answer I was expecting but I later thought about it at length and all its simplicity and rawness, couldn’t help by agree with his assessment. The unfortunate truth is, that many kids do grow up to be unhappy adults and that unhappiness can sink some amidst the sea of life’s seemingly endless pressures.
It got me thinking, why do some kids grow up happy and others slip between the cracks and struggle to ‘survive’? Is there a key to our happiness in this busy world and indeed what can we do as adults to help our children grow up and live a constructive life as happy adults?
I came to a conclusion. It is a very general conclusion and probably one that’s neither original or ground breaking but here goes.
You must like yourself.
You must learn to love yourself always and be your own best friend.
I know this is a simplistic and generalised conclusion, and there are many more factors that come into play, but I believe the basis of a constructive, not a destructive life begins with liking who YOU are and what YOU stand for. Feeling good about the person YOU are and the good things YOU do and stand for is the key ingredient to making you happy.
Every honest action we take, every positive behaviour we make, everything helpful, thoughtful, nice and constructive thing that we do, is not just good for others but more importantly, good for ourselves and our own mental state. All of our actions and behaviours impress upon our sub conscious to help create a positive image of ourselves…and this, I believe helps make us stronger and happier. That is why teaching children to practice good life skills is so important.
Our behaviour is circular. A well practiced, wide and varied range of good, wholesome, productive, social and emotional skills will assist us to make positive actions and good behaviours. Those actions and behaviours help create a positive image of ourselves making us feel good, building our confidence and giving us an overriding feeling of satisfaction. Feeling good about ourselves makes us happy and this in turn provides reinforcement to repeat our positive behaviour again and again. This happiness gives us satisfaction, contentedness and a feeling of strength.
Remember those days at school when you were feeling a little down and it seemed the whole world was against you? Do you remember how you kicked yourself out of that mood?
I remember growing strength and confidence from the saying to myself, ‘I’m a good person, I treat everyone well, I have nothing to fear.’
We can build strong kids by teaching and reinforcing life skills.
How do we teach these all important life skills to young children? Life skills and values such as persistence, sharing, being brave, being strong, team work, making friends, valuing others, working hard, being self content, making a decision etc. can be practiced, reinforced and taught to children.
Just as we drum academic skills in the name of the 3Rs to children, so we can do the same with social and emotional life skills. Just like academic skills, practicing life skills over and over again by children and being positively reinforced for their efforts is the best way to instil these skills in children. These are life skills that can be used for the rest of their lives.
It is all about reinforcing good behaviours that relate to each life skill.
If we encourage good positive behaviours over time, we can build strong kids…and strong kids have a good chance to grow up to be happy, confident, independent adults.
But first we must recognise and bring awareness to the skills we are trying to encourage.
Parents, teachers and care givers are out there teaching and role modelling positive life skills to kids each and every day, often unaware of the positive benefits they are creating. But what if we could be more planned and prescriptive about teaching life skills to children?
What if we could create awareness to parents and teachers and therefore children of these important skills and then encourage the children to perform actions and behaviours that reinforce each skill.
Imagine encouraging, reinforcing and building up in your child a set of well practiced good healthy wholesome life skills. Imagine the empowerment of children with a skill set that includes valuing others, being self content, having persistence, working hard, making friends, having hope, sharing, caring for the world, being strong, being reliable, showing teamwork and leadership etc.
It is essential that we focus attention on teaching these critical skills to our children and shine a light on their importance. A good armery of well practiced and instinctive ‘feel good’ life skills can help empower kids, build their confidence and help them ultimately grow into strong independent and happy adults.
It all starts with reinforcing good, positive thoughts, actions and behaviours in children and providing a solid base in which they can build a good strong positive self image . It’s about facilitating an environment whereby we help and encourage kids to like the person they have become. Helping them become strong, independent and loving yourself always and being your own best friend.