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Teaching Happiness to Kids

Nov 29, 2017

As every year, I recently attended the Happily Family conference about parenting. This year, the chat I loved the most is the one with Dr. Christine Carter about teaching happiness to kids.

I’ll be honest, my first (selfish) thought when I read the title was, “Teach happiness? If I can teach happiness to my kids, maybe I can also learn it for myself”. And I was right, I feel that a lot of what Dr. Carter said works for kids and adults alike.

This is not a blog post per se, it’s more of a list of ideas and concepts that made me think (which I love!). I hope you’ll like it, too.

  • Is happiness a trait of a person? There is a genetic component that makes it easier for some people to experience something like awe or optimism, but happiness is more of a set of skills. (This is always a good reminder for myself, as I’m a naturally half-empty-glass kind of person).
  • When we pursue happiness for other people—which doesn’t only mean to make other people happy, but to reduce suffering, and bring ease into other people’s life—we tend to find happiness for ourselves, too. This happens when we combine happiness with meaning.
  • Teaching happiness through meaning to kids can be as easy as asking a simple question at the dinner table: “What did you do today to make somebody else’s life better?”.
  • The sense of being connected socially is the key not just to meaning, but also to happiness. Our social connectors—the depth of our social connections—are the best predictors of happiness that we have.
  • How do you get an introverted kid to make connections? Often we tell our kids to go play with other kids, strangers to them, at the playground, but we never really teach them how to start making friends. Some kids (and some adults, too, like myself) have it easy, they’re natural at making friends. For introverted kids (or introverted adults, like my husband) it’s useful to teach them how to make friends by giving them tools: 1. make eye contact; 2. start a conversation, small chitchat (in Oliver’s case I imagine it being something like, “I have the same ball” or “I like your bike” or “look at my pinecone”); 3. Ask questions (what’s your name? where do you live? do you like pizza?); 4. Reveal something about yourself (for adults, go from shallow to deep, you don’t want to start with your darkest secrets ;-).
  • Talk to kids about what positivity is. It’s not about being happy, but seeing something positive in the discomfort, in the challenge, when facing an obstacle.
  • Life is discomfort: we need to teach our kids that discomfort is OK. We shouldn’t take their discomfort away: let’s not make up for their mistakes, let’s not jump in and try to make them comfortable every time they’re uncomfortable, let’s not try to “make better” something that is embarrassing or disappointing, let’s let them experience embarrassment and disappointment. This is the only way they’ll learn to deal with every day discomfort, to have compassion for themselves, to learn from their mistakes so they won’t do them again tomorrow.
  • The best parenting tool that there is to validate what our kids feel, their emotions, to let them know you understand them. And to teach them the difference between feelings and behaviours. All feelings (sadness, rage, embarrassment, disappointment, happiness) are ok. All behaviours are not.

And I’ll leave you with two sentences from other chats that got stuck in my mind. They’re up for interpretation as I think anybody can find a bit of truth in them, or something that they can relate to:

You take yourself too seriously. A little less you will make you a lot happier.

When we compare ourselves to others we’re comparing the front of other people to the backstage of ourselves. Remember, imperfection is part of the human experience.

Tell me what you think

Did you like it? Do you agree or disagree? I'd love to hear from you.

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The blog

I write mainly about Montessori, parenthood, and multilingualism. Here are some recent posts.

Mums, dads & kids
We don't know how to be parents, we learn it everyday as we go. This is my way of motherhood, the small victories and the bitter defeats, my inconvenient truths and the endless life lessons. And also all the baby products and toys we love the most.
How to leave the playground without power struggles
This is life
Audiobooks of real-life stories for kids
Let's not project our insecurities onto our kids
Question authorities
Parents need to be constructively selfish
One more step towards self-acceptance
When you think your marriage is over after kids.
Alex
We forgot our 10-year wedding anniversary!
Montessori
One day a few years ago my husband came home and said, "Why don't we put a mattress on the floor in the baby room? It'd be much more natural". "Never" was my reply. That's how our Montessori journey started. Since then we've been living, breathing and applying the philosophy at home day in and day out, starting from ourselves. Because educating children starts from the parents.
Montessori express: change the sentences into positive
Montessori express: everything is NOT fine
My baby cries desperately in the car (15 months)
Take care of the mother behind the woman
Montessori express: ask instead of correcting
Montessori express: describe instead of criticising
An example of how I practice empathy with my kids
How I show empathy to my children
Happy 4th birthday, Emily
Montessori New Year's tradition
Living sustainably
Living sustainably for me doesn’t only mean to have a more eco-friendly lifestyle. It means to make decisions that are sustainable for our planet, the people on it, but also for our life, our lifestyle, and our happiness. It means to take any daily chance to evolve and be happier, healthier, kinder, more responsible and more caring human beings—the only sustainable way for a meaningful future.
Face yoga is an act of self love
Why you should wear the same outfit twice on Instagram
The power of creating habits (and why you should do it, even if you then break them!)
Responsible eating is the diet of the future (Would you like to teach it to your kids?)
The power of NOT complaining: can you do it for a whole month?
Clean up your planet, please!
Infographic: 8 steps to switch to cloth nappies (a guide for reluctant parents)
A personal note on happiness
A personal note on social media
A change of life always widens your horizons
New to La Tela?
I’ve prepared collections on various topics that I’ve written over the years. Perhaps you’ll find one that interests you.

Travel

We sold everything to travel the world for two years. We're currently in New Zealand.

Books

In 2020 I wrote 4 books for the Italian collection “Gioca and Impara con il metodo Montessori” curated by Grazia Honegger Fresco. The collection is a project by Il Corriere della Sera and La Gazzetta dello Sport.

We also implemented the workshops of the last 15 volumes of the collection with Oliver and Emily.

Instagram

I update Instagram almost every day to be "close" to my family far away.

Why La Tela di Carlotta?
I dreamed of the name La Tela di Carlotta. One morning I woke up and in my dreams I had created a blog named just like the American novel (Charlotte's Web). Many years and endless ups and downs later, this web of thoughts and stories is my work. It took me a long time to understand what kind of online presence I wanted and today I know: I'm transparent, I show real life, I don't advertise, I only recommend sustainable brands (and not only because they pay me) and I believe in the value of my blog and my courses—because if we don't believe in the value of our work, no one will believe in it for us.
Carlotta
Carlotta dreaming of La Tela
I know! I don't want it to be over yet either.