Headmaster, Robert Upton, writes a weekly blog post.
The most recent post is below and past posts can be found using the links on this page.
Finding Emotional Fulfilment
Chatting to children over lunch this week they have all been saying how happy they feel at Yateley Manor. In the first assembly of the new year on Monday, children elected to set a resolution for the school community: To put a smile on everybody’s face. To me this encapsulates not only the family ethos of the school but also the empathy children possess. It was Mark Twain who once said, “The best way to cheer yourself is to try to cheer someone else up” and I firmly believe it is important to encourage children to find happiness.
For many parents, raising happy children is the holy grail of parenting success. However too often we think happiness is about those odd moments of achieving what we want. Lasting happiness is actually much more complicated but much more rewarding. Certainly we, as parents, can dramatically increase a child's chances of being happy just by the way we raise them.
Happiness is a by-product of emotional health. I believe the greatest determinant of our happiness is our own mental, emotional, and physical habits, which create the body chemistry that in turn determines our happiness level. It may seem odd to have happiness referred to as a habit but it is likely that by the time we are adults, we have settled into the habit of often being happy, or the habit of being largely unhappy.
A list from www.psychologytoday.com suggests that there are a number of keys to happiness. The first is to be with others who make you smile. According to the website, studies show that we are happiest when we are around those who are also happy. In other words it is important to surround ourselves with those who are joyful and let it rub off on us.
Finding your values, what you find true, what you know is fair and what you believe in is also important, according to the list. It suggests that the more you hold true to your values, the happier you will feel. Reflecting on what is working in your life and not discarding something because it is not perfect is another key to happiness. Doing things you love once in a while will also lead to greater happiness, as well as finding a purpose for your life, such as volunteering for a local group. The list continues by suggesting you should listen to your heart and do things that make you happy, not just because others think they will make you happy. Finally, be open to change, enjoy the simple pleasures such as treasured memories and push yourself for your happiness. It is your responsibility.
So how do we get to this point with children? Helping children to develop their values necessitates setting examples and being explicit. It is important to encourage children to explore what is important to them. By discussing this and modelling what is precious
to us, children are able to develop their own values. Opportunities at Yateley Manor open the doors to happiness by allowing children to identify new activities that they love and find success in. As adults we know we draw much happiness from finding a hidden talent or by conquering something challenging.
Ultimately if we can create a happy environment this is going to impact on all of us.
I think there are other ways we can make ourselves happy. Whilst it is fine to be ambitious, envy will only make you unhappy. Mary O’Malley wrote, “If your happiness is dependent on life being a particular way, it is a given that the flow of life will eventually dissolve the circumstances that are bringing you happiness, just like the tide washes away your writing in the sand.” We need to teach children that happiness can be found in many different ways and it is important to be proactive in finding it.
How can you help your child begin to develop the habits that lead to happiness?
- Model positive self-talk. Research suggests that happy people give themselves ongoing reassurance, acknowledgment, praise and pep talks.
- Help your child develop gratitude. Children do not have a context for life, so they do not know whether they are lucky or unlucky. Their only measure is that their friend Barry has more expensive trainers. There are ways to help children learn to cultivate gratitude, which is the opposite of taking everything for granted.
- Challenge the message that happiness can be bought. We are not the only ones teaching our children about life. They get the constant media message that the goal of life is more money and more items, a very materialistic view. Ultimately, what we model and what we tell them will matter more, but we need to confront those destructive messages directly.
“Success is getting what you want. Happiness is wanting what you get.” (Dale Carnegie) A candle, a glass of red and a bowl of pasta – that would be my happy place!
I conclude with the words of Ricky Gervais, star of The Office on the television. A little tongue in cheek perhaps but it made my laugh and laughing is good for us!
“Be happy. It really annoys negative people.”