There’s no doubt that more than anything else, parents want their children to be healthy and happy. Yet studies have shown that today’s generation of children might be the first ever to live a shorter life than their parents’ generation, and remarkably children were significantly less anxious and depressed during the Great Depression and World War II than they are today.
Why are children more anxious and depressed today? The answer lies in what can be described as the American Happiness Formula: Look Good + Perform Well + Get Approval = Happiness. Society today has conditioned us to follow this formula and many of us strive very hard to perfect it, only to find that it never adds up to the happiness we are longing for. That’s because this formula is extrinsically based meaning we are looking for validation and approval from the outside in.
Because extrinsic goals are based on what other people think of us, we have much less control over achieving these types of goals than intrinsic goals, which are based on a person’s individual development. So when children believe they have little or no control over their fate, they become anxious, and when their anxiety and sense of helplessness becomes overwhelming, they become depressed.
Clearly children need to be redirected towards intrinsic goals so that they can find their confidence, self-worth and happiness from the inside out instead of the outside in. If we focus on intrinsic goals, we are looking to personal effort and progress—things we can control. Having a sense of control of our own lives can then lead to feelings of confidence, contentment and happiness. In fact, researchers have shown that those who are intrinsically motivated exhibit not only more interest, excitement, and confidence in their lives but also enhanced performance and higher levels of self-esteem and well-being.
So how do we teach our children to be intrinsically motivated and find their happiness from the inside out? This ageless quest for inner happiness can be boiled down to four essential life skills – focus, confidence, resilience and social intelligence. The first three develop a strong positive sense of self and the fourth develops strong, positive and healthy relationships with others.
Stay tuned for more information. Each day this week we’ll post about one of these four life skills with a practical, step-by-step tool that will give you kid-friendly language and a simple process to help your child find true and lasting happiness from the inside out.