1. Get Happy Yourself
The first step to happier kids is, ironically, a little bit selfish.
How happy you are affects how happy and successful your kids are dramatically.Extensive research has established a substantial link between mothers who feel depressed and “negative outcomes” in their children, such as acting out and other behavior problems. Parental depression actually seems to cause behavioral problems in kids; it also makes our parenting less effective.
And this is not merely due to genetics.
2. Celebrate As A Family
Happy families celebrate both the small and big things: the end of a busy week, a good grade, the first day of school, a job promotion, holidays and festivals.
The celebrations can be as simple as going to the park together, or as elaborate as throwing a surprise party.
Happy families lead to happy children, so make it a point to celebrate as a family often.
3. Teach Gratitude
Help your child appreciate the everyday wonders of life by stopping what you are doing and expressing thanks for the moment. Whether it is the chance to play ball in the park together, watch a beautiful sunset, or pick fresh strawberries, express gratitude and your child will follow your example. Doctors say that when parents show gratitude, their children grow up more enthusiastic, joyful, interested, and engaged in the world around them.
4. Listen To Your Child
If your child comes home from preschool ranting about how much she hates another child, don’t immediately criticize her or tell her not to speak negatively. That will only make her repress her unhappy feelings and bottle them inside. Instead, hear her out and acknowledge her emotions. For example, you could say, “Wow, it sounds like he did something that hurt your feelings.” When kids feel that their parents understand them, they are happier.
5. Be Co-Explorers Of The World
Dedicate time every week to learn something new with your child. Not only will this show him how much you value the pursuit of curiosity and learning, it also levels the playing field, allowing you to relate to each other’s struggles and celebrate mutual triumphs along the way. Take a dance class, a self defense seminar or a gardening workshop with your child and grow together. As time goes on the skill you learned will be a bonding experience that ties you together wherever you are in the world.
6. Give Real Responsibilities
Happiness depends largely on the feeling that what we do matters and is valued by others, without that feeling, we fear we might be excluded from the group. And research shows that what human beings fear more than anything is exclusion.
In other words, people have an innate need to be needed. So the more you can convey to your child that he is making a unique contribution to the family, from an early age, the greater his sense of self-worth and his ultimate happiness. Kids as young as 3 can play meaningful family roles, Murray says, whether it’s refilling the cat’s dry-food bowl or setting out the napkins at dinnertime. If possible, assign a role that plays to your child’s strengths. For example, if your little one loves to organize things, give him the job of sorting the forks and spoons. If he’s particularly nurturing, perhaps his role could be entertaining his baby sister while you get dinner on the table. So long as you acknowledge that he’s making a contribution to the family, it will heighten your child’s sense of connection and confidence, two prerequisites for lasting happiness.
7. Set Reasonable Boundaries For Your Children
Parents who set and enforce reasonable boundaries raise confident, successful children.
Dr. Nancy Darling and Dr. Linda Caldwell found that effective parents explain the logic of the rules to their children. These parents state the principles behind the rules. In so doing, they form a closer, more understanding relationship with their children.
Darling says about parents who don’t set boundaries: “kids take the lack of rules as a sign that their parents don’t actually care – that their parents don’t really want this job of being a parent.”
As a parent, it’s unhealthy to be too controlling. But children need boundaries to make the most of their potential.
8. Allow Your Children To Make Their Own Choices (including choosing their own punishment).
It is beneficial to let children plan their own schedules and set their own goals. These children were more likely to become disciplined and focused, and to make wiser decisions in the future.
It’s helpful for parents to let their children choose their own punishments. Children who do so break the rules less frequently.
Let your children pick their own activities too, whenever possible. Children who participate in structured school activities that they’ve chosen are 24% more likely to enjoy going to school.
So as your children get older, give them the freedom to make more of their own choices. They’ll become happier and more successful as a result.