Raising Happy Children

By Raising Happy Children, We Will Not Only Fulfill Our Highest Priority as Parents, We Will Also Change Our World for the Better

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Happy children – truly happy children – grow up to be happy adults.

For example, according to a new look at a 40 year old study on child rearing practices conducted at Harvard University, those children who were hugged and cuddled more (which made them feel loved and “happier”) grew up to be the happiest adults.

Then, happy adults create a better world because research shows that happy people are more successful, balanced, generous, and principled.

There are many ways to raise happy children - both so they can be happy while they are kids and then, be truly happy when they become adults (the same goes for health – but that’s for a separate article).

Unfortunately, there is a disturbing trend we're experiencing today which must be addressed.  This trend relates to the increasing rate of “unhappiness” in our young people.  Examples include the increasing rate of high school depression and the skyrocketing use of anti-depressant drugs in preschoolers.  Yes, preschool children (that’s kids below the age of five) have represented one of the fastest growing uses for anti-depressant drugs according to recent data.  Come on now!!  This must stop (also see my article called, Let’s Get Everyone on Drugs!).

We must make our children happier, more fulfilled and more balanced – internally – without the use of drugs, both because they deserve it, but also to help them become happier, healthier, more productive adults.

It is not easy, though – especially in today’s world.  Our culture and our society – with all the demands and expectations – can create significant stress and "unhappiness" in children.  Some experts feel that promoting happiness in children is one of the most neglected family values.  I have read that part of the problem is that most parents don’t really even grasp the true meaning of “happiness” for their children and fewer still understand how they can help their children to find it.  In addition, it must start early in life. In fact, instilling happiness into children can begin before they are even born.

I have already mentioned the disturbing fact of increasing anti-depressant drug use in preschoolers. In addition, the rate of high school depression - and even suicide amongst high schoolers - continues to grow at an alarming rate.

So, if you have children – especially younger children (say under the age of 13) – what do you do for them to make them happy children? And by “happy children”, I mean for the long-term (in other words ... not the brief joy they might experience by buying them something or letting them do something they want to do).

It is so important that we instill happiness into our children early on.   As a parent myself, there is nothing more I want for my two little girls than for them to be happy and healthy throughout their entire lives.

In the grand scheme of things, this is even more broadly important. As I mentioned above, happy children tend to become happy adults, and since happy adults are more productive, generous, balanced, successful, and principled – if we all raise the happiest children possible, we will be building a happier world – one person at a time. This will shape the future of our planet.

PLEASE CONTRIBUTE YOUR ADVICE:

If you have any tips of your own on how to raise happy children, please pass them on so I can include them in the "Tips from BeHappy! Visitors” part of this website to share with everyone. Click here to leave your tip on raising happier children.

What an opportunity we have to make a global difference, don't you think?

So, by understanding what constitutes true, authentic, long-term happiness (for example, through this website) and how happiness develops in children (see below), you can help your children find it. 

Developing Happiness Early

As I mentioned before, raising happy children should ideally begin very early in life.  In fact, some research indicates it can start before a child is even born into the world.

There are many attributes parents should focus on which help "instill happiness" in young children.

Below is an excerpt from an article where Jim Taylor, PhD provides the main developmental priorities for instilling true happiness in children.

Dr. Taylor is the author of eight books including, Positive Pushing: How to Raise a Successful and Happy Child and Your Children are Under Attack: How Popular Culture is Destroying Your Kids' Values, and How You Can Protect Them.

You can get both books by clicking on the “Shop Now” buttons to the right.

So, first, to develop happiness in children, focus on these general developmental attributes:
























Self-Esteem

Self-esteem is a powerful contributor to happiness. Self-esteem gives children a sense of security from which they can engage the world, which enables them to approach life with confidence. Self-esteem also offers children a strong sense of competence, in which they view themselves as able people who can master important aspects of their lives. This faith in their abilities facilitates success, which can cultivate happiness. It also reduces worry and anxiety, which can cause unhappiness.

Positive Attitude

We've all seen children who just have a great attitude about things. They're positive, optimistic, and hopeful. They see a world filled with sunlight and warmth rather than clouds and cold. These children tend to be happy because they see the "glass half-full," meaning they expect good things to happen to them. Children with positive attitudes are also more likely to express gratitude. Children who appreciate the opportunities they're given and convey genuine gratitude to those who help them have been found to be happy people.

Passion

Another essential contributor to your children's happiness is a passion for something in their lives, be it writing, soccer, or another avenue. Passionate children are happy children because there is something in their lives that they absolutely love to do. Children's passions engage, absorb, and thrill them. For example, the reader who savors every word of the books she reads or the cellist who listens to Yo Yo Ma for hours on end. Just being involved in any way in the activities for which they have a passion makes them happy.Popular culture doesn't want your children to be passionate about their lives. It wants your children to connect to things that make it more money, for example, a passion for video games and shopping. In a short time, children get bored with their purchases and need to buy more stuff in the misguided belief they will feel passion for them. Parents exacerbate this dependence by choosing the expedient route for entertaining their children handing them over to popular culture rather than finding activities that engage their children, from which they might find a passion.

Balance

The unhappiest children I work with are those who lead unbalanced lives. They spend most of their time in one activity and their self-esteem is based on how they do in that activity. The problem with devotion to one activity is that things will not always go well, there will be times when children have setbacks and failures, and they will experience boredom, disenchantment, and frustration. If the one activity is all that your children have to feel good about themselves, you are at risk for unhappiness.  Popular culture wants your children to be imbalanced. Children see young stars, like the soccer player, Freddie Abdu, or the actress, Hilary Duff, are told by popular culture that they must sacrifice balance and, for example, join "all-star" traveling sports teams or take piano or dance classes five days a week to become superstars. Children who are out of balance are at risk of falling over metaphorically and being very unhappy. Balanced children derive happiness from many outlets, for example, sports, involvement in spiritual or cultural activities, or reading. Children who have balance in their lives will still have experiences where things don't go well, but, because their self-esteem is not based solely on one activity and other parts of their lives bring them happiness, they're still able to maintain their happiness.

Being a Human Being

Popular culture doesn't want to raise human beings. Instead, it wants to create "human consumings" whose primary purpose in life is to spend and devour. Human consumings buy, buy, and buy in the mistaken belief that it will bring them happiness. You can observe ravenous young human consumings every day in the malls, buying clothes and shoes "they absolutely must have!"Happy children are human beings, not human consumings. Being involves children finding happiness not in things, but in experiences, relationships, and activities that offer meaning, satisfaction, and joy. The ability to just be grounds happy children in who they are rather than what they own, and gives them control over what brings them happiness.

Relationships

One of the most robust findings in the research on happiness is that people who have strong relationships tend to be the happiest people. The opportunity to give and receive love, friendship, and support from family, friends, schoolmates, and others is essential to happiness. Positive feedback from others love, respect, encouragement is the most readily available source of happiness. Social relationships may also reduce stress, increase feelings of security, and generate other positive emotions, all of which are conducive to happiness.  Popular culture doesn't want your children to have healthy relationships. It preys on isolated and lonely children who are desperate for any kind of connection with others. Children who have good relationships have less of a need for attention, stimulation, and acceptance. They're less vulnerable to appeals from popular culture that may make them feel important or popular.

Giving to Others

We often look for happiness in the wrong places. We're preoccupied with looking inside ourselves to find happiness with psychotherapy, meditation, and self-help books to uncover our internal obstacles to happiness. Or people look for happiness outside of themselves in the form of consumerism, drug and alcohol use, and other forms of gratification. But happiness can't be found down either of those roads. Your children will ultimately find happiness outside of themselves, by giving of themselves to others. There is something profoundly nourishing about putting others' needs ahead of our own and helping others find happiness. Giving to others somehow touches us in a very deep way and provides a feeling of meaning, satisfaction, and joy that can't be found elsewhere. In putting their own needs aside to help others, children's own deepest needs are met.

Some Specific Thoughts and Tips for Parents

Based on these general developmental qualities, below are some specific tips I have found from some experts in child psychology and child rearing to have a much higher chance of raising happy children. It isn’t necessarily easy, though.  You must put in the appropriate amount of time and effort.

Play with them.  Don’t just watch them play.  It is important that you physically play with them. This does two things.  First, it creates happy memories for your child.  Just as important, playing with them makes them feel important – which helps build their self-esteem – which increases happiness.  Just 10 minutes of actual play with a child is better than an hour watching them play – even though you are “with them” in both cases.  So, get down and dirty with them – even when you don’t really feel like it or you think you don’t have time.  It makes a big difference, both short-term and long-term.

Praise them. It is very common for kids to be told what they are doing wrong and what they shouldn’t do.  They are scolded for misbehaving and are regularly being told how to behave. Ideally, minimize the word “don’t”.  Find ways to reinforce the behavior you want by praising them more for their “good” behavior rather than scolding them for the bad behavior.  Obviously, this is not absolute.  Again, this stuff isn’t easy.  But, there are many ways and opportunities to praise kids – which not only will expand their thinking, but also will build self-esteem and confidence.  

Laugh. Be silly.  Be child-like.  This, again, is good for both you and your kids (see “Be Childlike to Be Happy”). Believe it or not children have stress just like adults and the best way to alleviate it is to laugh. Children laugh much more than adults and have a natural tendency to be “silly”.  So, join in. Don’t be too serious all the time.  Play.  The point here is to have more happy memories by laughing and playing together.  Jump into puddles.  Get a little crazy.  Do things “grown ups” don’t normally do.   

Build in some flexibility.  Children need a break from their “routine” and demands.  They go to school every day.  They practice their hobbies daily.  They have their chores and homework to do. So, build in some down time during the day to just relax. Also, let them be in control of certain parts of the day. There are many times when they will need to do the things you want them to do, so give in every now and then and do something they choose. Be flexible so they start building their own sense of flexibility and become less rigid, with fewer “rules” that govern their lives (see “Change Your Rules to Be Happy”).

Be patient. Remember, nobody is perfect.  Children are learning constantly and they mess up a lot.  Give them time to get it right.  Don’t expect perfection – especially early on.  Help them learn from their mistakes and give them a chance to make those mistakes.  Again, reward the good behavior and temporarily “ignore” or minimize the negative behavior.  Obviously, again, this is only to a point.  Just be aware of it and be patient.     

Listen to them. There is nothing more demeaning than to talk to someone who is paying less than half attention to you. Don’t make the newspaper or television more important than your child. Stop what you are doing, get on an eye-to-eye level and listen to what your child is saying. Whether it is about a pretend bear that came to his afternoon camp out or how he dug a huge hole in the sandbox or simply that he loves you, Listen, Listen and Listen. Not only should you look your child in the eye when he speaks to you but reply to your child so he knows you heard him.

Provide proper nutrition. In general, our nutritional status today is very poor.  And, most of us have no clue on what constitutes a healthy diet, so we feed our kids the same processed, high sugar, high carbohydrate foods – much of which we think is healthy.  This is a topic for another article since it is such a big issue, so for now, just search out the proper information.  You can start by getting my ebook, A Guide to Healthy Living (just 99 cents for BeHappy101.com visitors) by clicking here.  It will explain why we are setting ourselves (and our children) up for poor health, illness, and a shortened lifespan and provide concepts on how to change this trend.

Relax together. Like playing together, it is important to relax together.  Many children are very active and will be on the go all the time if they are not stopped every once in a while. Children need to learn to relax and sometimes it’s up to us to teach them how to relax.  Plan some rest and relaxation – and do it together. Show them how to relax (hopefully you know how, but if you need help, read “Relaxation and Downtime”). If they only see you on the move they will feel the need to do the same.  And, if you relax together, it will do three things: (1) teach them to relax, (2) provide some “bonding” time with your child, and (3) help you to relax at the same time.

Promote creativity and self-expression. Let your child express themselves based on what interests them.  Expose them to music and art.  Let them spend whatever time they want drawing, reading, writing, coloring, painting, and expressing themselves.  Encourage playing a musical instrument.  Help them learn another language.  

Teach them independence. Children want to do for themselves. Show them how. If you do everything for them all the time they will never learn how to do for themselves. Allow your child the sense of pride that comes with doing something without asking for help. Everything your child can do for himself gives him that much more control over his life. Don’t worry he will always need you in his life but rather than his need for you to do for him he will need you to be there for him.

These are just some of the ways you can start instilling more deep-seeded happiness into your children.  In general, it’s really about building self-esteem, a positive attitude, balance, and physical health.  This will all lead to better relationships, better self-expression, greater self-confidence and a more grateful, generous attitude.

So, go out there and raise happy children.  You’ll not only have a happy child, but you’ll be changing our world for the better in the process.

BeHappy! my friends


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If the information on this site helps you and you'd like to make a donation to BeHappy101.com (to help make others happy), please click on the button below to make a contribution. The amount you donate is entirely up to you. A portion will used to contribute to the happiness of others and is greatly appreciated.



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