How to help your children be happy (Without happiness being the goal)


“I just want my children to be happy.” How many times have we heard someone say that? There is an innate desire in our souls to want our children to be well and well-off. However, should happiness be the goal? Should it be one of the many goals in life? My answer to that question is no. Instead of the state of happiness being the goal of life, the goal should be living a life larger than self. Happiness becomes the natural result of living a life beyond taking care of one’s needs and wants. How do we get our kids to have that perspective?

Last Christmas, my daughter saw a sign in a store that advertised a Christmas project asking folks to donate small gifts to be delivered to children around the world. My daughter wanted to do it, so I told her that she had to do this with her own money. She participated in the charity. I remember the look of satisfaction on her face when we dropped off the shoebox filled with toys and stationary at the distribution center. That moment was a reminder for me to raise my children to have the perspective of living beyond taking care of their needs and wants. How can we help our children find satisfaction in their journey? It is not as simple as having a Top 3, but here are a 3 thoughts to get this discussion going.

God needs to be in the conversation. There’s a constant conversation happening in that space between our ears. That conversation changes when God is invited into the discussion. Teach your kids to read the Bible and pray. Why not just pray? God’s voice will never contradict what He already said in His Word. When God is in the conversation, then self-centered thoughts change to a perspective that looks to others. Any sense of entitlement will be challenged by God’s voice Who says, “What about your family?” and “What about your friends?” and “What about your neighbor?” Think about the Golden Rule. It is the principle of treating others as one would wish to be treated. One of the rewards is the “happiness” that results from living this principle. God takes this relationship beyond happiness. God becomes the source of joy that is not dependent on circumstance. Could our children be at that place? Could we adults be at that place?

Get relationships right. People will disappoint you. You parents disappointed you, and you will disappoint your children. Your children will be let down. Also, they will have their shares of disappointing others. It is important to teach your children to be at peace with people as much as possible. Bitterness has a way of destroying our lives when we let relationships go awry. Some things are beyond our control, but we all have the choice of holding onto grudges or choosing to forgive. Can your children experience the joy of having positive relationships?

Get money and possessions right. I tell my kids that it is perfectly fine to have a ton of money and enjoy nice things… as long as those things don’t have them. Acquiring money and things should not be life’s goal. The ancient Egyptians would mummify their royalty and encase them in gold and the finest things. They believed their riches would go with them to the afterlife. Centuries later, tomb raiders took the treasures that somehow didn’t make the transfer to the afterlife. A person’s well-being includes having a healthy perspective of money and things. I remember witnessing a young boy give his prize and rare Pokemon card to a new friend. The boy was just as happy if not happier than the new friend who received his gift. After all, it is better to give than to receive. Don’t you agree? Can your children get that perspective? Is that perspective in line with yours?

I am trying to keep this list limited to 3, but should there be more? Your comments are appreciated.

What do you want your kids to know about money?

This is part 2 about our kids and money. After writing part 1, I was compelled to dust off a money-managing book by Dave Ramsey and continue reading what I started years ago. I remembered seeing his daughter Rachel Cruze speak at a conference. The conference wasn’t about money, but in her session she did speak about kids a money. My note-taking wasn’t stellar that day, but here are Rachel’s points in CAPITALS with my kid-talk thoughts in italics.

BE GIVERS. God doesn’t need my money, but I trust in Him. Side note: I just realized our American currency still says, “In God We Trust.” Tithing at church is a trust thing. It’s a heart issue. As if God is reprimanding folks when they get to heaven for tithing. (He isn’t.) Giving to charity is a heart thing. My most generous friends have this dynamics working in their lives where they just always have, so they always give. I think it’s the other way around, and that’s how God made this world work. 

MONEY COMES FROM WORK. Don’t just give your children things. Teach them the relationship between work and money early in their lives. I’m imagining making my toddler pick up his dirty diapers for cash for fishy crackers at this very moment. I want my kids to shake off  the current label on this generation being “Entitled.” I want them to understand the rewards of diligent work. 

THE BORROWER IS THE SLAVE TO THE LENDER. Debt. That’s my four-letter word. For me, it’s taken decades to finally stop trying to be the exception to the rule. I’ve been a slave far too long. I don’t want my children to go down the same path. 

One my friends, Phil commented on my last post that his daughter has categories for her money: tithing, charity, and fun money. Once again, another proponent of teaching our children to be intentional with their finances. Thanks Phil!

Here’s the link to Rachel Cruze and her section on Kids and Money https://www.rachelcruze.com/topics/category/kids-and-money

Your turn. Chime in. Share your thoughts, and let’s keep this conversation going. Have a great weekend! And by the way, I didn’t impulse buy a few of those wresting masks, but I wanted to.