If you asked a cross-section of parents what they want for their kids’ future, you’ll get a range of different replies, probably citing specific careers or achievements. However, one thing that’s certain to come up again and again is the simple wish for their kids to be happy. With all the advice out there on how to raise smart or successful kids, it can be easy to forget about the most important thing you can provide for them: emotional wellbeing. If you’re concerned that you’re not paying enough attention to this, here’s a list of some of the most effective, proven advice for raising happy children.
Get Happy Yourself
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Ironically, one of the most important things you can do to raise happy children is be a little selfish. You’re a constant presence in your children’s life, and how happy you are will have a dramatic effect on how happy, and in turn successful, your kids are. Research has found a substantial link between mothers who get the blues often and emotional issues in their children, characterised by a tendency to act out and misbehave. While there’s no genetic link that’s been discovered, happier parents are statistically more likely to raise happier children. Start off by paying more attention to your mood, act a little silly, and find excuses to laugh. A lighter mood is contagious, and will rub off on your kids in a very positive way.
Teach them About Relationships
We all know that understanding relationships is very important, but parents who actually make time to teach their kids how to relate to others are a minority. When you notice your kids getting into arguments with their siblings, simply shouting “Hey! Knock it off!” may solve the issue temporarily, but it won’t do much to foster the essential people skills everyone needs in the real world. Obviously, everyone matures at their own pace, but getting into little habits can set up a great foundation for your kids’ later life. Start off by encouraging your kids into little acts of kindness, and encourage them to build empathy. Aside from building skills that will be useful in later life, this will also lead to your kids being much happier.
Self-discipline will have a bigger positive impact on your kids’ future success than their natural intelligence, or most other traits and skills for that matter. You’ve probably heard of the famous marshmallow test before. Kids who were able to resist the temptation of a marshmallow, with the promise of another one at the end of it, generally went on to lead much more successful and fulfilling lives than those who went ahead and ate it. Greater self-discipline facilitates stronger learning and information processing, ensuring they get the most out of their education. Furthermore, self-disciplined children (and adults!) are able to cope with stress and frustration more effectively, and tend to have a greater sense of responsibility in all aspects of life. It’s much more than studying hard and sitting nicely at the table – early self-discipline makes for happier kids, too. Simply setting your kids goals to achieve, and rewarding them at the end of some hard work with a tasty treat or a trip to places like The Toy Station can be enough to foster greater self-discipline. This skill is something that will follow them their whole life, and open all kinds of doors.
Put Effort Over Perfection
While self-discipline is an important thing to teach to your kids, you don’t want to over-do it, no matter how badly you want success for your kids. While you should encourage and foster a tendency to try their best at everything they attempt, don’t become too wrapped up in your kids attaining perfection. Studies have found that parents who overemphasize specific achievements are more likely to have children who are at risk of substance abuse, depression, and anxiety. It can also give them a natural aversion to challenges and getting out of their comfort zone in some cases. Obviously, you want your kids to be high achievers, but if you wind up becoming a stereotypical “tiger mom”, you may wind up doing more harm than good.
You probably know already that teenagers can be much harder to raise than children. While a lot of teenage angst can be put down to their hormones running wild, you can take steps to lower your chances of having a grumpy teenager by simply teaching your kids to look on the bright side of things. Children who are taught to see the glass as half-full rather than half-empty are found to be much less prone to depression and other emotional problems when they enter puberty. Obviously, there are times when it’s healthy to get sad and angry, and we all have days where we get the blues, despite our sunny dispositions. However, if you’re something of a pessimist, you may be at risk of this bleak attitude rubbing off on your children. Optimists tend to be healthier, more academically successful, and better at bouncing back from life’s difficulties.
Teach Emotional Intelligence
Despite what some people seem to believe, emotional intelligence is more of a skill than an in-built personality trait. Thinking that kids, and adults for that matter, will naturally grow into an understanding of their emotions, won’t do much for your children’s future happiness and success. A simple way to start teaching your kids greater emotional intelligence is simply to empathize, and validate their emotions whenever you notice they’re struggling with frustration, anger or other difficult feelings. It may be easier to say “my house, my rules” and leave it at that. However, if you always lean on this to get your kids to behave, you can stunt the development of their emotional intelligence. When your kids say that they hate you, relate to them, say you understand why they’re mad, and handle the situation similarly to the way you would with an adult. Even though their behavior may not be acceptable, let them know that their feelings are okay.
Habits for Happiness
We’re getting near the end of this post now, and I’m sure you’ll agree that there’s a lot to remember for an adult – let alone a child! You can get around this stumbling block by incorporating these tips into some good habits. A few great methods for this include removing distractions and temptations from your usual environment, making your goals public to establish a healthy sense of pressure, concentrating on one goal at a time, and most of all, learning to be patient with the results you’re trying to achieve. These are pretty good pointers for achieving anything, to be honest! All these tips may feel hard to adopt as habits, but once you get past that initial difficulty, it will naturally become part of the routine.
Eat Dinner as a Family
This last one is simply a validation of something our parents and grandparents knew for decades. Eating dinner as a family matters. Incorporating this simple ritual into your home life will give you more opportunities to talk to your kids and foster a stronger relationship with them, and also up the standards in your diet and theirs. Studies have shown that kids who have family meals are less likely to experiment with drugs and alcohol in early life, have better grades, and have fewer depressive symptoms. They also tend to report a greater degree of trust with their parents. Your schedule may be pretty squeezed, but go out of your way to make time for family dinners.