All parents have slightly different visions for their children's future, but essentially, we all have the same goal – to raise children who are happy. We want our kids to feel good about themselves, to embrace life and all it has to offer, to surround themselves with loving people, to follow a career path that fulfils their potential. But in order to raise kids who are happy, we want to build the right foundation for happiness.
As a mum of three young daughters, there are specific things I want my kids to understand in order to be happy in life.
Here are the 10 things I want my children to know:
1. That it's okay to feel
My girls are 3, 5 and 7 years old. Like all children, they have their up and down moments. They get upset if they don't get what they want. They might yell, shout or cry. But even if they are acting inappropriately, I try my best not to dismiss how they feel. I might say, "I know you feel upset because you wanted that toy, but you don't hit other people." I want to raise my girls to understand that feeling and expressing emotion is not a weakness – but a strength. It's when we're aware of how we feel that we're in a much better position to do something about it.
2. That it's okay to make mistakes
My kids have caught me out on occasion doing the 'wrong' thing – forgetting to do something I said I would, not being as respectful as I should be, using profanities when I've told them that they shouldn't do it themselves. But I'm always honest about what I've done. I want my kids to grow up knowing that it's okay to do the wrong thing sometimes. That it takes courage to admit that you're wrong.
3. That your physical appearance doesn't define who you are
I always try my best to feed my children healthy food and to keep them fit and active. I believe that's essential. But I want them to grow up knowing that how you look on the outside does not tell the whole story of what's happening on the inside. That no matter what anyone says about how you look – whether good or bad - who you are as a person matters so much more. That your values, your morals, your kindness to those around you is the true message you show to the world.
4. That money and objects aren't as important as the people in your life
In our household, we celebrate holidays and birthdays but the focus is never on the presents. The focus is on the people around us. I want my kids to understand that the best way to show people love is to give them your time. That you don't need money to make another person feel appreciated. I want them to know that it's okay to enjoy buying things for yourself, but not to let those material possessions define your happiness – let those objects be a small piece of a much larger puzzle.
5. That giving to others feels good
My 7-year-old often writes notes for other people. One of her most recent notes was to her Dad: "To Dad. Thank you for working so hard. From Alisha." She always tells me that she likes making people happy. I know that she's seen the love that I have for her father. The way I leave notes in his work bag and around the house. I'm raising my kids to understand that kindness strengthens relationships between people. That it's good to care for others not out of necessity, but out of the kindness of your own heart.
6. That forgiveness is essential to relationships
My kids may hurt each other, sometimes accidentally or even intentionally, but I'm always teaching them that everyone makes mistakes. That nobody is perfect. And it's important that we give people another chance. It's important that we embrace their willingness to 'right their wrongs'.
7. That you should remember to cherish the moment
As busy as my life gets, I always try to stop and enjoy the moment. If my kids want to read a book, we'll read one together. If I feel like tickling them for 20 minutes, the housework can wait. I want my kids to grow up understanding that life does get busy – but we need to make time for the people we love. I want them to remember to smile, to laugh and to breathe. To one day look back on life and feel as though they've really lived it.
8. That life will be hard, but you will get through it
My kids have seen me at my worst. They've seen me tired, stressed and emotional. But they've also seen me be positive and strong. They've heard me say that things will be okay. I want my kids to grow up knowing that life isn't going to be easy – that they'll encounter challenges that will get in the way of their hopes and dreams. But I'm doing my best to raise my girls to be strong and resilient kids. Kids who understand that life isn't going to be easy, but who believe that they're strong enough to face it.
9. That you are capable of making your own unique contribution
My kids are individuals. They have their own temperaments, personalities, talents and interests. They are all capable of making their own unique difference in this world. I want them to grow up embracing that individuality. I want them to love themselves for who they are – not how they compare to others. I want them to know that no matter what they choose to do in life, I will support them.
10. That you are loved
And most important of all, I want my three daughters to know that no matter what happens, I will love them unconditionally. That I might get upset, I might get angry, I might disagree with some of the decisions they make later on in life. But I will always love them.
Thuy Yau is a freelance writer and mother of three. She is passionate about personal development and psychology. You can follow Thuy on Twitter, join her on Facebook, or read her blog at Inside a Mother's Mind.