“Choose Joy!” is a phrase Jim repeated and prayed every morning on his mission trips with high risk teens. These were kids prone to depression, anger, and sarcasm. However, they all benefited when they were encouraged to choose joy. Along the way it dawned on both of us: choosing joy is a great way to learn to live, because joy is like a natural drug that gets into our physiology and literally changes the way we think and act.
In the nitty gritty of everyday life, it is sometimes hard to remember to choose joy – especially if you have a child who is struggling.
Dr. Jane Nelsen, internationally acclaimed speaker and author of the Positive Discipline series of books, stated:
“Not too long ago I had a great idea for a book that would be so profound and effective that I would offer a ‘triple your money back’ guarantee if parents didn’t experience fabulous results with their children. The book would contain just three words: Enjoy your children.”
Based on this idea of enjoying our kids that Jim and I both embraced, when our oldest son Daniel was a toddler, I developed the habit of greeting him when he first came down the stairs, with a grin and an enthusiastic, “Oh, boy, IT’S MY BOY!!!” followed by a hug. There was excitement in his eyes as he would stand on the steps waiting for my greeting. One morning I was reading when he entered the living room, and my response to him, if I made one at all, must have been bland and non-engaging. The part of the memory that is still vivid is the sad look on his face and the little, disappointed voice, “You didn’t say, ‘Oh, boy, it’s my boy.’”
The joyful greeting I was in the habit of giving, and he so loved to hear, clearly communicated, “I am so glad to see you! There is nothing you can do to earn my affection. It is unconditionally yours.”
We encourage parents everywhere to choose joy just a little bit more each day – in every facet of life.
One mom we coached said, “Everyone keeps telling me to have fun with my kids, but it just wasn’t working. It’s not natural for me to play games or be silly. I stink at that! But I sought out things that made me laugh on my own so that laughter with my kids came easier. I found that what worked for me wasn’t playing games but just smiling more, tickling when I can, more hugs, and snuggles. And beyond that I took some things off my list and rested. Me being happier, even if it is not in direct relationship with the kids, has made things in our house better.”
Here’s a few pointers for choosing joy which, in time, can overflow to your kids:
- Seek out things on your own that make YOU laugh. When you are happier,even if it is not in direct relationship with your kids, it can make the whole climate in your house better. Watch a favorite funny movie, turn on a sitcom, eat some chocolate, grab coffee with someone who makes you laugh, watch old home movies.
- Surround yourself with friends and other families who make you laugh.
- Take some things off your plate and be okay with it!
Make time in each day to laugh with your kids. Silly routines, greetings, or songs can be a great way to smile together, and often prevent misbehavior.
- Read the comics. Or watch a few fun videos with your kids.
- Find creative ways to teach life lessons – so you’re not always just telling kids what they should know.
When you enjoy your child you gain a whole new level of influence to teach and train them in life’s most important lessons. Simply put, joy is the undercurrent beneath everything that we teach.
No matter how or where you find joy in your family, you can remember these two words to live by: “Choose Joy!”
Apply It Now:
- What is one way you currently experience joy in your family?
- What is one practical way you would like to bring more joy into your family?
Portions of this tip are excerpts from our book, How to Grow a Connected Family.