OPINION: Being happy for others is a great lesson for all children

High school students wearing uniform sitting in a classroom. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto/monke

Feeling joyous for someone else is infectious, says Ruth Davies, and a great lesson for children - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

We teach our children as we have learned, passing on pearls of our wisdom not wanting them to discover the hard way.

Ultimately however, we do all have to make our own mistakes but I do so hope some of my passed on knowledge will go in.

Recently I’ve been teaching my children that being happy for others, alongside kindness, is key to our own happiness.

I think this may be something which evaded me for a long time and I don’t want it to be the same for them – the quicker they learn to embrace other people’s achievements and realise it takes nothing from them to do so then all the better, all the more human and all the more to be proud of.

I had a conversation with one of my best friends not so long ago where we were noting the peaks of another pal with just a slight edge of annoyance.

It wasn’t intentional but it felt like we were both on the edge of feeling so irritated that she had yet again fallen butter side up, when we may have not, that we very almost couldn’t find the joy for her she deserved.

Thankfully we noted it, checked ourselves and very definitely turned a corner because as we chatted we realised this friend’s happiness did not depend on us being happy for her but our own happiness just might…

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The conversation had started when I’d mentioned this other friend had yet again done so well – what an awful thing to say. Or even think!

It should have absolutely begun with “have you heard her wonderful news?” but I was, without realising, more than a little bit jealous and I allowed that feeling to overtake the fact I should have been celebratory for her over any other emotion.

As I looked deeper I could see it only mattered how I felt about the situation if I could be genuinely happy for her, the bitter vibes would bite only me… How utterly shameful and, rather sobering!

This is a friend I have spoken of in the past as someone who would land in Spain in the depths of winter to blue skies and rocket temperatures while I I could go to the Canaries in the height of summer and find rain.

Actually… I suspect the rain followed me with that attitude and had she found herself in for a grey week in Tenerife she’d have laughed her way through it.

The thing is, I realised during this conversation, she has made her own luck and isn’t any different to anyone else.

Landing butter or sunny side up doesn’t come because she’s a naturally lucky person and as I examined the situation in more depth, this friend has actually encountered many things which could floor another, less willing to forge on and make the best of it person.

She has experienced more than her fair share of heartache but has picked herself up, dusted herself off and gone after her dreams. No wonder they are all coming true and so they flipping should, she’s worked so hard to make them happen all with a smile on her face – even during very hard times.

That thought made me smile too and feel a little bit of wonder for and at my friend.

I’ve often allowed myself to give into jealousy, looking at other people’s achievements and wondering why I couldn’t ever quite get over the same walls, comparing myself as if I and my feelings were more important.

I didn’t mean to be a bad person and on the surface I’d have always said: “Wow, I’m so happy for you”, but deep down it probably wasn’t quite with both feet jumped in. I realise now that without fully immersing myself or finding a true happiness for others that I simply could not be fully happy myself.

Cheers to a friend with a side note of snide isn’t the ticket, we need to embrace other people’s goal smashes with feelings as well as words.

So this why I frequently remind my children to always be happy for others and to let those feelings fill them to their boots because they will be lighter, brighter and better people for it.

Happiness for others doesn’t detract from your own so embrace everyone’s dreams coming true then yours will too! I explain to them that it takes more energy to snip about someone than it ever would to want to throw them a massive smile and say; “Well done!”

When my daughter recently got into a high school she had been desperately working towards being offered a place at, another mum from her current primary sent me a message saying: "I am so happy for her that when I found out the news I cried.”

Now I want to be just like her and I want my children to be the same. What an amazing thing to say and yet think how much more amazing it is to feel that joyous for someone else – there’s nothing like it!

Ruth Davies has a parenting blog at www.rocknrollerbaby.co.uk