By far the most common response when you ask a person what they want for their spouse, parent, or child is “I just want them to be happy.” And isn’t that really what we all want for ourselves, too? Parenting is the toughest job in the world; a job which comes with no instruction manual or booklet and which requires little to no vacation and constant on-the-job learning. It’s an uphill climb with twists and turns at every bend, but it can also be one of the most rewarding jobs we can do.
In this list, we’re here to help out parents, would-be parents, and people who are just plain interested in psychology and happiness by presenting 25 different ways to ensure you raise happy kids. We debunk some common parental styles which have proven unsuccessful and introduce a variety of simple ways you can instill good values in your children to make them happier and more successful both in adolescence and in future adult life. If you’re looking to be a better parent, uncle, aunt, or any other kind of mentor to a child – or if you’re looking for some ways to make yourself happier as an adult, too – check out our list of 25 Pieces Of Wisdom To Help You Raise Happy Kids.
Cover Image CC via cheriejphotos via Flickr
Setting a positive example for children is one of the best ways to raise happy kids. Children who grow up in hostile environments with fighting parents are more emotionally unstable, perform worse in school, and are more likely to turn to drugs and alcohol.
While constantly-fighting parents lead to less adapted children, it's good for a child to see a disagreement between her parents come to a resolution rather than being sent out of the room. As long as the conflict doesn't escalate and insults aren't hurled, constructively arguing in front of children and coming to a conclusion teaches them how to effectively compromise and resolve conflict.
Parental acceptance is a crucial part of childhood development. Children who are rejected by their parents are more likely to be emotionally unstable and more likely to react in a hostile or aggressive manner to otherwise mundane situations.
It may seem easy to dump kids in front of the television when momma needs a break, but watching TV means your child will be more unhappy. In fact, children are 8% more likely to develop symptoms of depression for each additional hour of television they watch.
One of the most important lessons for parents to learn is to praise their children for effort rather than ability. Parents who laud their kids' abilities or intelligence are making it harder for them to cope with failure. Moreover, kids who are praised for effort are more likely to choose harder tasks because they are not as fearful of rejection if they don't succeed.
Some parental styles these days overemphasize education and basically lock kids in a never-ending spiral of studying both in the classroom and at home. Let them live a little! Kids who play develop more social skills, motor skills, creativity, and emotional strength than those who study all the time.
Having a supportive, nurturing mother has been shown to increase the size of the hippocampus - the center for stress and memory - by up to 10% in preschool kids. A larger hippocampus has been associated with a decreased risk for memory loss and dementia.
Every college student has heard about the helicopter parent: that overbearing, overprotective parent who just won't let their kid control their own life, even after they've moved out of home. Freshmen with these overbearing parents tend to be more anxious, self-conscious, and less open to new experiences, among a barrage of other negative traits.
Parents often over-focus on academic intelligence, leaving emotional intelligence by the wayside. It's important to teach your kids how to understand their emotions. To do this, first empathize with what your child is feeling then help label what emotion it is they're feeling. Lastly, let them know it's ok to feel this way and help them figure out why they are feeling it.
Teaching optimism to young children has been shown to reduce the likelihood of pubescent depression by half. "Always look on the bright side of lifeeee!"
Kids feel proud when they master a task but can become easily discouraged in the process. Encouraging your kids when they fail and nudging them to more practice will help them master basic skills and get a happiness boost from it, too.
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Parenting styles must change based upon different child personalities. One-size-fits-all approaches sure don't work with kids! If a child is good at regulating their emotions and actions, they'll need more autonomy and a less-structured environment from their parents. Alternatively, if they're not able to handle their emotions well, they'll crave a more structured and directive parental style.
Though it may seem more difficult to do as our lives have become ever-busier, research shows sitting down to dinner together is a major contributor to childhood happiness. It makes kids more emotionally stable, perform better in school, and less likely to become obese. Make sure to talk to your kids at the table about the achievements and challenges of their day and feel free to share some of your own, too.
While it's commonly thought divorce leaves lasting negative impressions on children and gives them difficulty in maintaining an intimate relationship later in life, studies have shown 80% of kids whose parents divorce or separate don't develop psychological problems. The key point is to keep the child out of the sometimes bitter conflicts which arise in a separation.
Though kids are thought of as juvenile and underdeveloped adults, there's a lot more to them than we give them credit for. Eight-year-olds have reported measurable increases in happiness when their life has meaning, such as when they join a sports team or do something nice for a classmate.
Being generous can cause increased levels of happiness in pre-teens and teens alike. Things such as spending time with an elderly family member or sharing with a sibling increased personal happiness levels and caused peers to like them more.
We all know it's important for kids to get plenty of sleep, but do we know how important? Now we do. Research has shown when a sixth-grader loses just an hour of sleep per night, his performance the next day drops two years to that of a fourth-grader. Moreover, teenagers who scored in the "A" ranged slept, on average, 15 minutes more than those who scored "B's" and 30 minutes more than those who scored "C's".
A great example of belief being more important than reality, pre-teens who believe they're good at a sport feel more content than pre-teens who are actually good at it.
If you want your kids to be happy, you have to be happy, too. Studies have shown a child's social and emotional skills are more advanced when her mother is satisfied with her life, more so than they are based on her education, current job status, or earnings.
It's easy to tell kids to "break it up" when they get in a disagreement or a fight, but it's harder to teach how to prevent such discord from happening again. Parents should encourage their children to relate to other kids and try to understand them rather than getting frustrated at their differences. This builds empathy and sets kids up for more meaningful and productive relationships throughout their lives.
Some parents have no tolerance for when their kid talks back to them, but research is showing this isn't such a good parental trait. By being more assertive at home, teenagers have also been found to be more assertive with their friends, rejecting peer pressure which has become all so common. This isn't to say kids should be allowed to go wild, but parents should learn to yield to valid arguments their kids make and support them in their decisions.
Building good, regular habits such as brushing one's teeth before bed or having a standard bathtime helps kids feel more secure, happy, and leads to better productivity in both adolescence and future working life.
We might think of babies as incapable of anything besides eating and pooping, but even they can experience measurable changes in happiness! Research has shown infants are happier when giving treats to others than when receiving the same treats themselves. In a heartening revelation for humanity, they are also happier giving away their own treats than ones which don't belong to them.
In ranked order, kids are made happiest by their family, friends, playing, participation in sports, and finally by their toys. If this article has driven home one point for sure, it's that relationships are one of the most important ways to raise happy kids.
Lastly, children crave discipline, as we all do, and teaching them how to have self-discipline may very well be the most important lesson you can give. Self-discipline has repeatedly been found to be more predictive of future success, more so than smarts or basically anything else. One simple way to nurture self-discipline is teaching kids how to distract themselves from temptation, such as putting the decadent piece of cake in the back of the refrigerator or covering it so they can't see it.
Looking for more parenting tips? Here are 25 Parenting Hacks To Keep Parents Sane And Kids Happy .