7 Strategies to Help Raise Happy Kids



Like almost every parent I know, I want my kids to grow up happy.  I want them to be happy as an adult and happy while growing up that way.  It's irrational to think that my kids will be 100% happy 100% of the time; that's not what I mean.  I know that there are going to be a lot of times where my boys will feel anger, frustration, heartache, and maybe even depression, but those are a necessary part of growing up.  I want them to have a lifestyle where they are emotionally healthy and have everything they need to be happy.  So like most parents, I scoured around the internet for advice.  Here are the best ones I found:

Get Happy Yourself

Parents are the primary role model for their kids.  Both directly and indirectly, we influence the personality development of our kids.  We teach their kids how to perceive and react to the world. As their parents, we are the ones they learn most of their good and bad habits from.

By being happy, we are showing our kids how to do so also.  It's simple.  According to Eric Barker, blogger at Barking Up the Wrong Tree, "It can start with encouraging kids to perform small acts of kindness to build empathy."  Stephanie Pappas at LiveScience writes, "When parents joke and pretend, it gives young kids tools to think creatively, make friends, and manage stress."

Encourage Play

Playing is essential. Children use playtime to develop their physical skills, learn to cooperate with others, and exercise their imagination.  The physical activity helps keep them healthy.  Playing with peers helps kids build their social skills.

Through role playing and improvising, children engage in what is called "open-ended play." According to Parents Magazine, open-ended play "isn't too programmed or regimented...[it] helps them discover their talents and use their own resources." Open-ended play helps kids prepare for situations that are beyond what they are currently in. They may pretend to be on a pirate ship in the middle of a storm and may find a creative way to save the crew. They might also pretend to be firefighters and save a city from burning into ashes.  This type of play, children "invent scenarios and solve problems by themselves."

Teach Them to Build Relationships

Our children need to be able to start, develop, and maintain positive relationships throughout their lives. They are going to have a family, friends, relatives, colleagues, coworkers, and wives/husbands. There is a difference between having a family and having a great relationship with your family.  Relationships don't build themselves; people must do it.

Each social relationship is unique in its own way.  For our kids, being able to build positive relationships on their own will set them up for a lifelong network for success.

Teach Optimism

According to Christine Carter, author of Raising Happiness: 10 Simple Steps for More Joyful Kids and Happier Parents, "Optimism is so closely related to happiness that the two can practically be equated." Simply put, the more optimistic a person is, the higher possibility of happiness that person has.  (It also works conversely with negativity. It's almost common sense that pessimism and unhappiness are closely related.)

Optimism is how we teach our kids to navigate through the challenges and boundaries that life throws at them.  Optimism is what they need to have during their tough times. Being optimistic gives them lifelong hope.

Teach Emotional Intelligence and Self-Discipline

Kendra Cherry, author of Everything Psychology Book (2nd Edition), defines emotional intelligence as "... the ability to perceive, control, and evaluate emotions." It's being aware of your emotions and managing them to fit the needs of every situation.  This is an important skill that our children need to learn; it's not something that they're just born with.

As parents, we can teach our children the appropriate way to emotionally react to every possible situation.  They need to healthily heal from any kind of heartbreak.  They need to be able to joyfully celebrate their victories and achievements no matter how small or large.

Being independent will increase the chances of our kids leading happy lives.  They will be able to solve their own problems, make smarter and wiser decisions, and take appropriate actions.  Teaching our kids this will only benefit them.

Encourage Effort for Mastery

Perfection is a highly delusional standard. It's subjective, and everyone has room for growth.  Expecting perfection is nonsensical, and if we place that expectation on our kids, then they're being set up for failure.  According to Carter, "Parents who overemphasize achievement are more likely to have kids with high level of depression, anxiety, and substance abuse compared to other kids."

Practice and effort is what really makes people better.  It's more important than "natural talent."  According to The Atlantic, "...inborn talent is much less important than hard work, preparation, and self-confidence." With any skill, whether it be a sport, dance, or academics, every child can improve and achieve mastery with enough practice and effort.  Scholastic states that "With mastery comes confidence, leadership skills, initiative, and an enduring desire for hard work." Encouraging effort teaches kids that they can always do something to improve their lives, which is something to be happy about.

Form Happiness Habits

Habits are hard to break, our kids might as well have good ones.  Consistency and persistence are the keys to establishing habits that promote happiness.  According to Barker, "Thinking through these methods is taxing, but acting habitually is easy, once habits have been established."

Some happiness habits (and are not limited to) practicing gratitude, celebrating every achievement (both big and small), acknowledging effort, exemplifying a healthy sense of humor, and allowing them to learn from their own mistakes.
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The future is both annoyingly and excitingly uncertain.  Anything can happen, but I really want to be certain that my kids will grow up to be happy.  I'll employ the aforementioned strategies as much as possible. I already do some of them and there are others that I'm willing to try.  It won't be easy, but it'll be worth it to give my kids the best chance at a happy life as possible.

What additional strategies do you use? Please share in the comments below.



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References

"Raising Happy Kids." Scholastic.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 9 June 2014. <http://www.scholastic.com/parents/resources/article/social-emotional-skills/raising-happy-kids>.

Barker, Eric. "How to Raise Happy Kids: 10 Steps Backed by Science." . Time Magazine, 24 Mar. 2014. Web. 29 May 2014. <http://time.com/35496/how-to-raise-happy-kids-10-steps-backed-by-science/>.

Carter, Christine. Raising happiness: 10 simple steps for more joyful kids and happier parents. New York: Ballantine Books, 2010. Print.

Pappas, Stephanie. "10 Scientific Tips For Raising Happy Kids." LiveScience. TechMedia Network, 12 Jan. 2012. Web. 1 June 2014. <http://www.livescience.com/17894-10-scientific-parenting-tips.html>.

Cherry, Kendra. "How Emotionally Intelligent Are You?." About.com Psychology. About.com, n.d. Web. 30 May 2014. <http://psychology.about.com/od/personalitydevelopment/a/emotionalintell.htm>.

Kimball, Miles, and Noah Smith. "The Myth of 'I'm Bad at Math'." The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, 28 Oct. 2013. Web. 9 June 2014. <http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2013/10/the-myth-of-im-bad-at-math/280914/>.

Lee, Sandra. "How to Raise Happy Kids."Parents Magazine. N.p., n.d. Web. 9 June 2014. <http://www.parents.com/parenting/better-parenting/style/how-to-raise-happy-kids/>.

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