7 Ways to Raise Happy Kids (Part 1 of 2)
Updated: May 24
7 Ways to Raise Happy Kids (Part 1 of 2)
Raising happy kids these days is quite a challenge. With all of the negative media on Youtube, on kids' television shows, and on commercials, it can be hard to help children maintain a positive attitude. After all, having a positive attitude is at the core of happiness. And at the foundation of having a positive sense of self is confidence.
It can be hard to instill confidence in kids when it is our job to teach them how to go about life “the right way.” Oftentimes, parents can get caught in negative reinforcement as they aim to correct socially unacceptable mannerisms and behaviors.
None of this intentional on the parent’s behalf. Parents have to deal with a lot! They have to handle bills, deal with work relationships and bosses, ensure their own well-being - while raising a confident child! Remember those stories you currently share about your youth and how mom MADE you take piano lessons? How you had to attend dance class and this one time…..
That is because parents care! In addition to their everyday stressors, parents put forth their best effort to raise well-adjusted children with a sense of culture, a strong education, and a multitude of experiences.
And parents get tired. Rightfully so.
Here are 7 ways to raise happy children that will help them flourish as young adults, and parents themselves.
7. Don’t Forget to Praise Them
Kids are constantly learning. With learning comes mistakes. Lots of mistakes. How do we correct mistakes? By pointing them out. One way around this that reduces the negative impact a correction may have on self-esteem is to offer an alternative. For example, at the dinner table, a child uses their left hand with the fork, instead of the right hand.
If you’ve had a long day, it is easy to quip out “That’s the wrong hand! That’s not your right hand!” Instead, I would suggest offering an alternative choice to the child, eliminating a positive versus negative outcome. You would rephrase this same scenario as “Try putting the fork in the other hand. That will be more comfortable for you.” Phrasing the redirection in a friendly, confident tone implies a useful suggestion.
As we know kids don’t always listen the first time - so what do we do then? Do we pull out the negative/positive card? Nope. If your child doesn’t listen, simply look them directly in the eye and say it again.
I know what you are thinking: “Oh come on! Like it’s that easy! You obviously haven’t met my kid!” Many parents can commiserate. In this situation, simply take the fork out of your child’s left hand and put it in their right hand. At the same time say ‘Here. Try this!”
Here is the most important part: When your child follows thru with the socially acceptable action, make sure to praise them!
These are great statements of praise that easily roll off the tongue:
“Nice!” (While looking at the child)
“You did that really well!”
“You are so great!”
If you prefer using praise that is more well-rounded and thorough you can say:
“I like how you did that! It really makes you look grown-up!”
“Thank you for doing such a good job listening.”
Just make sure to keep your tone of voice positive and upbeat. Anyone in the world would rather follow the direction of a Positive Leader, rather than a Negative Nancy.
6. Eat Right
Food is another foundation for a child’s proper growth. Sugar is bad - we all know that. But do we know why? Sugar causes mood disorder-like behavior in kids. Sugar can disrupt sleep patterns. And excessive use of sugar can lead to obesity. Obesity makes kids miserable! It is disruptive to their social incorporation at school, their self-esteem, and their sense of control over their lives.
Do you know why advertising agencies market to kids starting at a young age? Because the habits children start when they are young can tend to follow them through the rest of their life. Advertisers call it “Brand Loyalty.” One question tho: why aren’t fruit and vegetables marketed with brand identity? I can only think of one...bananas...Dole. But I digress….. Some kids are famous for not appreciating veggies. Thanks to modern innovation there are many clever parents who have come up with recipes that include vegetables without incorporating their taste. One word: Pinterest.
5. Give Them Some Control - thru Choice
Kids are told what to do and how to do it all day long, every single day. At a certain point, some kids become frustrated and feel they are being controlled. These kids may begin to act out, act in defying ways, and rebel.
The worst-case scenario is that a child may become physical with you because they don’t know any other way to create control in their life. Kids need choice. “Yes” and “No” choices may be easy to present but they aren’t preferred in every situation. They encourage passive decision-making.
Offer kids a sense of control by offering 3 positive choices, all of which you would be happy about.
Engage children in the process. Instead of saying “do you want fruit?” Ask your kid if they want an apple, an orange, or a pear. This creates involvement and ownership of their decision while still offering you the opportunity to provide direction.
Let’s say it is time to do chores. Remember, we need to keep things positive. Instead of saying “Did you feed the cat?” ask them “did you want to feed the cat today, make your bed, or help with dishes?”
You are sending the message that one way or another, they are completing a chore today. But you offer the child the benefit of making them feel like it was their decision to do something productive.
Packaging menial tasks or requests in a positive system of choice formulates children’s minds to reflect positively on contributions they have chosen to make. Positivity is one of the foundations of happiness.
4. Create a Reward System
Notwithstanding, kids are still kids. Children sometimes need a physical or visual reminder of the positive decisions they have made.
Whether you use a sticker chart or a rock jar, let the long-term consistency of their actions build-up to a wonderful reward that will help them create a memory with you.
Word to the wise, never ever take away stickers or rocks. This will defeat the encouragement and reward you are working towards. You may teach your child that any positive action is cross-canceled by a simple mistake.
This creates the mentality of defeat and contradicts the intended purpose of this reward system - ultimately lowering their self-esteem and their belief in the good they can create in their life.
Next week we will follow up with Part 2 of 2! Stay tuned!