As parents, we want to give the best to our child – the best education and an environment to succeed. But wait. Life is not all about accolades, certificates and money, all of these will not be satisfying without happiness. From toddler age, there are parenting principles we can apply to raise a happy child and very likely, contribute to a happy family too! Let’s explore these 8 tips!
Tip 1 – Be Responsible for Your Own Happiness
You can’t force happiness on someone else but you can control your own. Being happy is the best model for the child that yes, (i) no matter the circumstances, we can choose to take a positive attitude to life and (ii) we are responsible for our own happiness. Is it possible to be happy as a busy parent with many demands? Yes, take time out to rest, relax and romance your spouse. A family unit’s strength and foundation rests on the marriage.
Tip 2 – Let Your Child Express Feelings
Happiness is not true happiness if a child is commanded to smile or not whine or cry. In fact, parenting experts warn that parents shouldn’t dictate or condemn the child for expressing his/her feelings which may lead to feelings being bottled up. On the other hand, it is not about encouraging tantrums. Instead, a parent whom a child trust is able to encourage expression of feelings in a safe setting and guide the child to process his thoughts and manage his emotions.
Tip 3 – Parent-Child Bond
Behavioural issues are at times associated with the lack of bonding between the parent and child. Spending time, giving attention, playing with and parenting your child help to boost her self-esteem, confidence and in many ways, linked to her overall happiness. A strong bond increases the likelihood that your child feel safe and will confide in you her worries, and having a parent as a trusted companion gives peace and joy. Bonding is not limited to parent and child but it has been shown that the more connections a child have (with extended family, friends or pets), the more likely the child is happier.
Tip 4 – Enough Quality Sleep
Not getting quality sleep has been associated with attention and behavioural issues in children. Children who lack sufficient sleep get easily irritated, exhibit mood swings, grouchy or not able to focus. Toddlers need about 12 to 14 hours of sleep per day. To help your child enjoy a night of quality sleep, be sure to keep electronic devices off the room (TV, iPad, phone, gaming device) and have it dark and quiet. Establish a bedtime routine for your child, such as a bath followed by bedtime story.
Tip 5 – Unstructured Play
Being able to work with others also contribute to happiness and parents can expose their child to other children and introduce play activities that require working together. Children of different ages play together differently but parents should not interfere too much in how the children play. Instead, focus on introducing play activities that are less structured and not buy expensive toys which give little alternative to what to do apart from pressing certain buttons. Building blocks, play doughs or pretend play with props like tent, doctor’s or chef’s toys can encourage communication and teamwork.
Tip 6 – Give Real Responsibilities to Your Child
You may be tempted to do everything for the home and children; after all, it is much faster to do the chores than to have to monitor and guide the child to do them. However, parenting experts advise parents to give the child responsibilities and to give those with a real contribution. Being able to contribute foster a sense of belonging to the family, value and build his confidence and happiness overtime.
Tip 7 – Praise the Effort, not the Result
Receiving praise is good for the child but be wary of two common pitfalls in this area – 1. Praising for something that is not praise-worthy and 2. Praising for being clever or pretty and not linking it to the effort a child put in. If parents continually praise their child for the smallest things, the child may get confused and not be able to grasp that efforts matter. Also avoid praising the child for something that is beyond his/her control like bring pretty or comparison to other children. Studies have shown that toddlers who get encouragement when taking on challenging tasks (for their age) are more likely to master more difficult tasks when they are older. With the right kind of praise, parents can foster a confident and happy child.
Tip 8 – Gratitude
Sometimes adults miss this too – we have a lot to be thankful for but instead focuses on what is out of reach. Be a role model in this and give thanks regularly (meal time or bed time) for all that you have been glad to receive or happy to have gone smoothly for the day. Include your child in this routine and you are nurturing a child who will grow up to be grateful, optimistic and happy.
Many of the above are applicable for adults in the family too – for a start, model them and use some of these tips on your spouse, a happy marriage is the foundation for a happy child!