When you ask parents what they wish for their children, the first thing they will say is to be happy. It’s not always easy to find the balance between what is good for our children and what makes them happy, but the two don’t have to contradict one another. They are often two sides of the same coin. The following educational guidelines will help you raise happy children while doing what is best for them and for you.
1) First and foremost, make sure you are happy
The first step in raising a happy baby and toddler may sound a little selfish: take care of your happiness before anything else. In a vast study conducted in Canada, researchers have found a direct link between depressed mothers and various behavioral problems among their children. The study suggested that a happy parent is more likely to raise happy children.
It is, therefore, highly recommended spending time with friends or with your spouse once a week. You should also take time for yourself once in a while and engage in activities you find interesting. All in all, fill your life with joy so that you can serve as an example for your children.
2) Teach your children how to build relationships
All parents will agree that establishing new relationships is important, but how many of them really spend time showing their children how to do it? Saying “enough fighting” when two children do not get along does not help them understand why they should stop fighting, or why they started fighting to begin with.
There is no need to send your children to a relationship course. It will be more than enough to encourage them to do good deeds to others and to explain to them why kindness is important. This will not only make them better persons at present and in the future, but also happier. Doing good to others will create a positive cycle from which everyone will eventually benefit.
3) Encourage effort, not perfection
This tip is meant for parents who push their children too much. Research has found that children who have been driven by their parents from young age to become overachievers are more likely to suffer from depression, anxiety and substance abuse later on in life compared to regular children.
In a study conducted by psychologists from Columbia University to test intelligence, it was found that toddlers and older children who received compliments for their achievements tended to choose easier tasks to avoid losing their “smart” status. On the other hand, more than 90% of the children who were praised for their effort and not achievements opted for the harder exercises.
The conclusion was obvious; when we praise children for their hard work, they want to keep trying. They don’t see challenges as a way of proving they are better than others. They just enjoy the experience of dealing with the challenges – which is a much better (and happier) way to study.
4) Educate your children for optimism
In a study carried out in 2014 which encompassed children at the aged of 3-13, it was shown that those who were raised to look at the world in a positive way were 50 percent less likely to suffer from depression when they reached adolescence. Optimism, happiness and success go hand in hand. Optimistic people are more successful at school, at work and in sports; they live longer and enjoy happier marriage.
5) Teach your children emotional intelligence
Emotional intelligence is not a born talent. You should not expect children to “naturally” understand their feelings or the people around them. When toddlers are angry, you ought to empathize with them while helping them understand the kind emotions they are experiencing. Explain to them that it is legitimate to feel angry, disappointed, frustrated or sad, yet it is not accepted to behave in a way that will hurt themselves or others. A line should be drawn between what a child can feel and how she should respond to that feeling.
6) Work with your children on positive thinking
If you instill positive thinking in your children from a very early age, you can, definitely, bring happiness to their lives. Keep them away from temptations and distractions when you work with them on a specific way of thinking, for example learning to settle for what they have. Set one goal at a time, and don’t try to teach them a few positive principles at the same time. Do not expect perfection or immediate results. Continue to provide positive reinforcements along the way.
7) Self-discipline is important
Self-discipline is more important than intelligence because children who effectively manage to overcome temptations are more likely to excel at what they do and experience happiness. Self-discipline enables to cope with frustration and stress leading to social responsibility and success in studies and relationships later on in life.
It doesn’t mean that you have to resort to Spartan education or turn your home into a boot camp. Self-discipline can be taught in a pleasant and loving way. You have to know where to draw the line and at the same time be lenient and flexible. For example, your toddler should be allowed candies but no more than one per day. Watching TV is OK but at specific hours and for a limited amount of time. During the week there should be a fixed bedtime. On the weekend your toddler can go to bed whenever she feels tired.
8) Playing fills a vital role in a toddler’s mental development
Playing makes toddlers more aware of their immediate surroundings and helps them live the present moment to its fullest.
In the last two decades, the number of hours children have been spending on spontaneous games at home or outside has dropped by eight hours, a significant amount of time. Do not opt for television or computer as the easier option to keep your toddler busy. Bear in mind that game time is essential for her cognitive development and happiness.
9) The less TV, the better
We might not be willing to admit it, but all of us are heavily influenced by the television programs we watch. Moreover, the content shown in these programs can stand in the way of our effort to educate our children and instill in them the values we deem important.
It’s imperative that we, as parents, be able to control the things our little ones are exposed to as part of our attempt to create a safer and happier environment for them, or in other words: less TV!
Your children can engage in plenty of activities that will make them happier in a way TV will never be able to. TV programs provide no more than momentary enjoyment.
10) Eat dinner together as a family
Science confirms what Grandmothers have known for generations – family dinners are important to children. In a study conducted by the School of Social Work in Boston University, researchers found that children who ate family dinners on a regular basis grew up more emotionally stable than others and were less likely to consume drugs or alcohol or develop eating disorders.
So if you haven’t done it so far, gather your family for half an hour of dinner every evening. If you don’t have the time to do it every day, 2 – 3 times a week is better than nothing.