Things do not make us happy. It’s experiences that make us happy. Going out, exploring the world. Interacting with the world. Doing things. THAT is what makes us happy. The same goes for our kids. We keep giving into their demands for more toys, and think that buying them more toys will keep them entertained and happy, and maybe give us a break. But no, what it does, is burn holes in our pockets, teaches them to value things over people and experiences. Teaches them that they constantly need that next fix or the next toy in order to feel happy. And worse, you then have to not only spend hours assembling the toy, but you then have to spend hours playing with them with this very toy that you thought would give you a break! Worse, they then become very controlling, as they have become so used to getting their own way, that they start telling you what to do, how you must play. What you must do and say so that they can feel a sense of power and control.

Far better it would be, if they could gain a sense of mastery over themselves and develop their own skills, which would give them their own inner sense of control, instead of having the need to feel control through controlling another. It is up to us to set them up with tasks, that will allow them to grow, and gain new skills, and a sense of empowerment and growth.

It is all to easy to fall into the materialistic notion of just buying them another toy to ‘keep them happy’. All this does is clutter your house and your life. Of course it’s nice to have nice things. But that is why it’s better to just have a few quality toys, and just get rid of the rest. Otherwise they become overwhelmed with stuff, and when they start whining and complaining that they are bored, you say ‘how can you bored when you have so many toys to play with.’

Human beings need constant change and stimulation. The only thing that can really provide that is the outside world. Getting out of the house is key to access that stimulation that both adults and kids need to feel stimulated and alive. Being at home with the same toys that a child sees day in and day out simply does not provide them with the kind of stimulation that they need. Even schools have a similar problem. Kids get bored at school because it’s always the same four walls, same place, same people. Yes the subject material might be different. But in my opinion, the best kind of school would be one where the kids are exposed to new experiences every day, with changing places, people and material.

Going to a different museum every day. Seeing different exhibitions. Going to different parks and playing different games there. I think such change is essencial for the child’s mind to expand.

When a child has too much control he feels insecure and unhappy. At the moment, Daniel is telling us what to do and getting his own way all the time. Whether it be with food, telling us what he will and will not eat, with what we do – from the second he wakes up, telling us we have to play with him. Saying he wants to stay at home. Saying that we mustn’t talk to each other, only to him. At the end of the day, he needs to know that we are the boss, not him, and we need to direct his day, not him. 

What has led to this is that we have always been scared for him to cry. You read all these books that say letting them get distressed is bad for them because then the brain gets wired for cortisol which primes them for stress later in life. But just crying a bit is very different to getting distressed. We must not be scared to let them cry. That was the first piece of advice that our cousin Martin gave us. His kids are the loveliest sweetest most well behaved kids I have ever come across. He said that the hardest part of being a parent is holding your child while they cry and not giving into them. Munchkin was only 6 months old and he said if we haven’t started disciplining already at 6 months old it’s already too late. These religious people know something that we don’t. They have so many kids that no one kid can be spoilt. They have to learn to fit in, and there is no way that one child can have all the control and power because they just have to fit into the hierarchy. 

We are giving Dani the best of everything. And giving him full control over everything. Doing everything for him. Even dressing and undressing him, brushing his teeth. Giving into his food whims. Doing what he wants all the time. Giving into him when he cries. Giving him no schedule or structure. Because we are displaying no control over his life, he feels like he needs to take control. And this is where the problems starts.

We need to provide him with routine and structure. He needs to start dressing and undressing himself. For the day he must have some sort of activity that we plan. He is feeling insecure because he has no structure or routine and has no idea what is coming next, and he has way too much power and control. He will only feel safe if we manage his day for him, while giving him some control and independence where he dresses himself. He also needs a consistent routine at night that includes and bath and story and consistent predictable bedtime. Their day needs to be so full and busy that they should literally fall into bed from exhaustion at the end of it.

Want to Love your Child more?

A major insight I had last night was: the more you give to your child, the more you love them. And if you feel more love towards them, and they feel more loved, you both feel happier. I remember hearing once: ‘you love those that you give to’. That is why in our religion, Judaism, they say the best thing you can do in a marriage to make it work, is to give to your partner. The more you give to them, the more you will love them. It is the same with your child. Lately, I have been slacking a lot as a mother. Feeling run down and tired with an on and off cold, I’m also pregnant. I have lazed about at home while my husband did all the work (he works from home) and he has been taking my son to and from nursery, then taking him out after. He did this both because I needed the rest, and also the headmistress thought it would be better for him to settle our son into nursery rather than me (as he’s more attached to me). I only saw our son much later in the day – around 4 or 5. And when I did see him, I found him to be a bit of a nuisance, and had far less patience with him that I used to have, and just less good feelings towards him. In fact I lost my temper with him on a few occasions, which I had never done before, and felt extremely uptight around him.

He kept saying ‘I just want Mummy to be happy.’ Clearly he was sensing this. He started getting very emotional and upset, and was stressing about nursery school and saying he wants me to take him to nursery school and stay with him. So yesterday I got up early and I took him. I stayed with him in the class for 45 mins and spoke to the teachers about my concerns. I waited there the whole time and brought him back and then I took out him out to Maggie and Rose. I cannot tell you what a difference this made to my bond with him, my good feelings towards him, my happiness, and his happiness. We were both so relaxed, felt so much closer and connected, and had so much fun together. He was like a different child. Whereas before he was very upset, emotional, and anxious for me to be happy, and going out of his way to get on my nerves (probably as he so desperately craved my attention) he was now so sweet, loving, easy going and fun to be with. What a difference!

The moral of the story? If you want to love your child, enjoy their company and have a great time with them, then you have to give to them by spending time with them, doing things for them, taking their feelings seriously and sorting out things that are bothering them, taking them to do fun things, showing them a good time, and being there for them emotionally and physically. This cannot be passed onto a nanny or husband, or someone else because as a result you will sacrifice your bond and close connection with them, – and above all, feelings of love towards them. It is a known fact that the more we give, the more we get. The profound truth here is that there is no better feeling than that of loving another, and that is the gift that we get by giving – feeling love.

One of the greatest gifts we can give our kids is our happiness. Because if we are happy, we are nicer and more giving to them, which makes them happy. So the key is to figure out what makes us happy, and then practise it every single day. In my case, it seems to be getting up early, ready before my son wakes up, and taking him out. Mixing and talking to other adults, such as teachers and Mums at nursery school or activities, and being stimulated and active. Then doing fun things with my son and keeping busy and out of the house. My happiness puts me in a good mood, which makes me treat him with kindness and respect, which makes him feel good, secure and happy. When us Mums are not happy, it makes our kids feel very insecure. Our feelings also rub off onto them.

Human being are not isolated creatures. We are all intertwined, we exchange energy, our energies mesh and like atom osmosis, they become one. If I am unhappy and am exuding that energy, it will infiltrate his energy, and as a result he will become unhappy. He will then act out which will make us even more unhappy. If you give, and do things to try and make the other happy, you will feel more love and positive feelings towards that person. We naturally love those that we give to and look after. That is why the love a mother feels towards her baby is more powerful than any other kind of love. Because we give more to our baby than to anyone else in the world. We need to keep that up as our kids grow in order to maintain that close bond of love and affection. This in turn gives them confidence and makes them feel secure and loved. It is easy to fall into the trap that as they become more independent to feel like we can give to them less, and pull back a bit, but no, the giving must never end if you want to maintain that strong bond of love and affection.

This video by Rabbi Twerski sums up my point exactly – when you give to another, you invest yourself in them, which naturally makes you love them more.