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The Way to a Happy Life according to an 8- and 6-year old

Children are wise souls, and may often be more in touch with their essence than their parents. My children offer constant guidance, if only I were a better listener. This is a collection of bits of wisdom that I compiled during recent conversations with my 8- and 6- year old daughters.

• Don’t smoke.
• Don’t drink beer, wine, or soda. If you do, only once every two years.
• Things just aren’t how you expect them to be, so it’s good not to have too many expectations.
• Don’t brag and make everyone not like you.
• Don’t say bad words, like shut up or stupid.
• No tattoos – you are pretty enough how you are.
• Pay it Forward (We recently watched that movie, and they loved it – left quite an impression).
• Be nice.
• No forcing, like don’t make your kids use a pillow.
• Go with the flow.
• No tv, except how the world was made or how dinosaurs died. TV is bad for your brain.

They have pretty well summed it up – the way to a happy life is about loving yourself and others.
If my end in mind is to create a happy life, then would not my “rules” be a means to this end?  Is it possible that I have created too many rules for my self and my children without an end in mind?

After a recent parent ed night at my children’s school, I am giving serious contemplation to our “house rules.” I am making a conscious effort to give support not control, encourage will and self-discipline, and offer freedom and independence when possible.

Two important messages that I carried away from our parent ed conversation and have only begun to internalize:

1.  How much freedom is the “right” amount?  As much as we can handle, and no more.

2.  It’s not all about me.

As parents and society, we create rules for many different reasons: safety, health, social graces, tradition, and social order.   I am consciously considering the “But why?” of our rules. Several of the answers are no longer acceptable in our home.   Rules for these reasons are probably not fair and supportive, more for control than support:

Because that’s how it was for me, or your sibling.
Because that’s how it has always been.
Because it annoys me.
Because I am teaching you a lesson.
Because I know better.

I am looking for rules that we can all “buy into.” I want to offer training of the executive function – to equip my children to make healthy, empowering choices for themselves. I want to construct precepts for life that as a family we agree will give us the way to a happy life.

This is what we came up with.  Our rules to live by and our way to a happy life:

1. Respect for Life ~ people, animals, plants & minerals
2. Kindness ~ bring joy & happiness to self and others
3. Responsibility ~ for my thoughts, words, and actions
4. Loving Speech ~ to my self and others, and about others
5. Healthy Diet ~ what I put in my mind and body

So, that’s it…5 rules at our house.  My role is to trigger the executive function and let them apply what they have agreed to.  Questions I may ask for this purpose include:

“Is that respectful?”

“Are you being kind?”

“Who is responsible for this mess?”

“Are you using loving speech toward your sister?”

“Is that show healthy for your brain?”

Early in life is when we develop our character and the habits we carry through life.  I am making intentional use of this time.  Respectful, kind, and responsible adults are created from self-disciplined, independent children who are afforded just the “right” amount of freedom.

Just this morning, Emily asked if she could make homemade waffles before school. My instinct was to say, “No.” (Because I don’t have that kind of time this morning – It’s not on my agenda – That’s a weekend thing). There I stood, thinking it was all about me.

And then, I asked myself, “But why?” In that momentary shift from unconscious to conscious, I responded, “Yes, if you are responsible for the making and the clean-up.” It was the “right” amount of freedom, a rule she bought into, and a happy morning.

Thank you Sra. Anna at OakHaven Montessori School.  This was a great topic for parent ed.  And thank you for putting me to the challenge to create more than house rules, but a way to a happy life.

Cultivating Love & Peace,


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