We don’t measure happiness by what we have but by what we do. The meaning in life lies within our personal potential. You can help your children reach their own by how you treat them.
What makes you happy?
To love and be loved. To know you are not perfect and be fine with it. To love what you do. To be creative and fulfilled. To have a purpose. To like being alone and not feeling lonely. To love what life has to offer.
Your children can get there by reaching self-actualization – achieving their full potential.
How to define self-actualization
Since Freud supplied psychology with the “sick half”, humanistic psychologist Abraham Maslow wanted to fill it with the “healthy half” (MASLOW, A.H. Toward a psychology of being, 1968). So, he created a hierarchy of human needs. In order to reach your full potential, you have to satisfy your basic needs first: physiological (breathing, food, water, sleep, etc.), then feeling safe, loving and being loved, feeling good about yourself, to finally get to your self-fulfillment.
You won’t feel like finding new friends if you are hungry or cold. Each lower need is the foundation for the upper one to develop:
In other words, self-actualization is a drive to develop your abilities and make the most of your talents. You find life meaningful because you are able to fulfill your highest needs.
What are self-actualized people like?
People who have reached self-actualization are admirable but not perfect. According to Huffpost, they…
- are honest
- know their flaws and accept themselves fully
- are curious and know they still don’t know a lot
- are spontaneous
- are very creative
- fulfill their mission (be it destiny or a job)
- are humble and grateful for what they have
- are unconventional but understand everybody
- have close relationships with just a few
- are independent and like being alone
Everybody can reach self-actualization but few people do. This is how you can help your kids go that way:
Always satisfy the child’s basics first
Make them feel secure. Give them enough attention and affection. Don’t make them afraid of you, but respectful instead.
Set firm rules but be very responsive to their needs. Don’t be too permissive. This way you are teaching your children society standards and being supportive at the same time. As a result, children will develop self-esteem. If they do something wrong, criticize their behavior, not them as persons:
“A typical authoritative parent will reprimand their child for hitting another child, for example, but will also then follow up after the punishment of choice. For instance, after the child has been on time-out […], the parent will ask the child what led them to the decision to hit, why it was wrong, and what they would do in the future. The parent should also make sure the child knows they themselves are not bad, rather the behavior is harmful, and is generally not acceptable […]
Source – Psych Central
Children should know you love them even though they have done something wrong. They shouldn’t feel threatened despite the punishment. The sanction is there just to prevent such behavior in the future. This way children will not think badly of their parents or themselves.
Show love so they could love themselves
Love your kids for who they are and they will believe they’re good enough. If you like their self, they will like it, too.
Let them know you love them even when they make a mistake. Unconditional love will boost their self-esteem and help them achieve great results.
Showing love to your partner will also help your children develop self-esteem. If they feel safe, they will be able to understand themselves better and spend time developing their talents.
Give praise and mean it
Let them know they have great virtues. Praise them for what they have done: your girl painted a nice picture, your boy kicked a ball well. Give them praise for what they are really good at. Don’t applaud them for everything because no one else will.
Help them develop their talents
Help them fulfill their potential whether it’s math, storytelling, cooking, or volunteering. Whatever they are passionate about.
Support their artistic streak. Creating art can make anyone feel better when they are down. Being creative and consuming less is the road to happiness for many. Since it uses both the conscious and unconscious part of a human being, artistic expression is a great way to achieve self-actualization.
Teach your children to think for themselves
Having a critical mind makes you independent, creative, and able to make good decisions. It makes you stay true to yourself.
Being a part of the group is a human’s natural need. Still, it does not mean we must be a part of the flock. Self-actualized people understand others very well and don’t want to insult them. Sometimes they behave by the group’s rules even though they know better.
Acknowledge their successes and failures
They will learn from you how to treat failure. Children should understand they aren’t to blame if they fail in something. Let them know they have a certain share of responsibility but defeats are usually connected to external circumstances. This way your children will believe they are good enough. As a result, they won’t grow into people who constantly need to prove themselves to others.
Help them practice gratitude
We all know about writing down things that make a child happy in a notebook before sleep.
In her article “5 ways to help your kids practice gratitude” Katie Hurley suggest the happiness jar. When your kids are happy, get an empty jar and some index cards. Ask them to remember all the things that make them happy and write 1 thing on each card: swimming, playing in the sand, birthday parties, a bubble play, etc. Put them all in the jar. At the moments of unhappiness or bad feelings, open up a jar and discuss why these things make them happy. The cards are a good reminder of how beautiful life can be. Children should be thankful for these moments.
Teach them life is unpredictable but manageable
Why don’t we teach our kids that life isn’t a party? Everybody has problems. But they pass and there is a lot one can do not to feel helpless. Also, there is always someone to rely on. As they grow up with the sense that things are sometimes good sometimes bad, but never terrible, your kids will become more self-reliant.
Let them find their aim
We can define happiness and success in many different ways. Some people like to make art. Some enjoy making strong connections with others. You can use your talent to teach others. Or empower yourself so that you can empower somebody else. Or make the world a better place.
The best things in life are what you make or do. And when you create something, you are your best version then. Self-actualization in young age is rare. But you can pave the way for their future self-fulfillment. If young people are confident enough and have a sense of belonging, they can reach self-actualization more easily. They will enjoy life more with that sense of purpose.
I wrote a book about growing up. It is a story of a little blackbird who cannot fit in a farm life. Here it is: