From the first sonogram to the first day of college, parenting can be simultaneously the hardest and the most rewarding job.
And yet with bullying, anxiety and depression in our world, how can we change the culture of fear-based parenting so that our children can truly flourish? Here are a few tips from positive psychology experts that can be easily incorporated into your parenting and have been proven to increase happiness.
Actively listening to your child means eye contact, not interrupting, and not waiting for your turn to talk. If they aren’t asking for advice, don’t give it. Instead ask them questions like, “What do you think you could do about that?” or “How did that make you feel?” Really hearing what your child wants to tell you will encourage them to continue communicating. Making every conversation a lesson (given by you) leaves them feeling inferior and disempowered. Take advantage of time together in the car or at meals and practice just hearing their ideas with an open mind.
Let them make messes and mistakes
Happy children know they can cope. They have learned by getting off at the wrong bus stop or pouring the milk too quickly and having it spill. According to child psychologist JoAnn Deak, kids feel supported when they don’t do something right the first time and they are more likely to keep trying. This leads to children with greater problem solving skills as adults. The ability to think outside the box is more about nurture than nature. When they learn this type of thinking in childhood, it translates to success in adult years.
Teach them gratitude
Gratitude is the fastest shortcut to happiness. Studies done at Berkeley have linked gratitude to increased personal well-being. If children are grateful for what they already have in life, they are more likely to be happy. Starting a family ritual of sharing the best moment of each family member’s day and one thing they are grateful for every time you have a sit down family dinner. Families who sit down to eat together raise healthier children.
Show them love
Of course this means your physical hugs, cuddles and kisses. It also means demonstrate hugging, holding hands and kisses with your partner and your extended family too. Our sensory system is built to support our need for social connection. Touch is one of the best ways to do this.
Give them wings and watch them fly
Our job as parents is ultimately to teach our children how to care for their own needs. The sooner a child begins to feel successful at self-care, the better. We worry so much about all the things that might go wrong that we sometimes rob our children of the opportunity to try. Start with simple things. How many times have you started the shower for your child when they are fully capable to turn on the water and check the temperature on their own? These are the baby steps to self-sufficient and happy adults. But it all begins with a happy child.