So we hear a lot about raising smart kids and raising successful kids. But what’s more important than that? Happy kids! Which is why I loved yesterday’s article from Time which listed 10 science-backed ways to teach your kids happiness. Here are my favourites, and my take on them:
Get happy yourself
Example is the best way to teach, right? Plus it’s no secret that a parent’s way of being has a massive impact on their kids. In keeping with this, I recently heard that one of the best ways to ensure that a child is secure is for them to see that their parents love each other – and I can personally vouch for this. In our household, my siblings and I knew that divorce was never an option, and even though we did see Mum and Dad have the occasional tiff, it was never anything more than that – which, I think, has helped us to become quite confident and independent people.
Teach them To build relationships
It’s not rocket science that healthy relationships with the people in your life makes for a happier you. So how does one teach the building of good relationships? I think this requires imparting the values that affect how we deal with others: kindness, generosity, empathy and sincerity, amongst others.
Expect effort, not perfection
I like this one. No one is perfect – and expecting yourself, or another person, to be so is going to lead to disappointment and anxiety. Hence, expecting your kids to be perfect is sure to put a lot of pressure on them: it’s an ideal that, realistically, they can’t meet. Expecting them to try their best? That’s a whole other ball game – it’s definitely realistic, and it’s nice to know that someone has faith in you.
Happier people see the glass half-full – thanks, Captain Obvious. Sure, in some part, optimism is a trait you’re born with. But I think it’s quite possible to teach optimism. When the kids complain, offer them the other side of the scenario, even if it seems annoyingly positive (I’m sure I’ve mentioned my Dad’s little poem before, known to be 100% effective for stemming complaints: “I was in the blues because I had no shoes, but then on the street I saw a man with no feet”). You’ll be teaching their brain to see the bigger picture, as well as to look for the silver lining. What a good trait to develop!
Teach emotional intelligence
This is an interesting one. It’s about teaching kids to identify why they’re feeling a certain way, and so enable them to take the necessary steps to deal in a healthy manner. How to teach this? Ask questions. They’re angry? Sad? Tired? Ask why and help them to rationalise. This is a process I’ve only really used in recent times, and it’s helped me go from irritable all day to actually facing why I feel a certain way, and then dealing with it and moving on – back to a happy place.
Nothing good comes from acting solely on your feelings, all the time. The best things in life take hard work and self-control. It’s easy to miss this in a culture of instant gratification but think about it – take away the instant gratification, and we’re left with a lot of emptiness and nothing to distract us from it. Self-discipline is needed from the little things (showering every day, waiting at the dinner table until everyone’s eaten) to the big things (holding down a job, being faithful in your marriage). Being fulfilled in these things will lead to a happier life. Seems like an important characteristic to me.
“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” Need I say more? I will anyway, though. Playtime – and I’m talking stuff like running around the house, frolicking outside and playing with toys: not to be confused with iPad games – is when a child can learn to be creative, imaginative, and to fully enjoy the present moment: things that are all vital for happiness. It’s an important part of growing and learning – and, in this technology-saturated time, I think it’s more essential than ever to make sure it happens.
Eat dinner together
Family dinner makes you happier in mind, body and soul, as you’ve heard before on FamilyEdge. Intellectual benefits for kids include a boost in their vocabulary and academic performance. Physically, kids are more likely to eat more healthily with the family than alone, and the instance of TV dinners are rarer (and therefore also the instance of weight issues). And best of all, it’s soul food – regular family dinners are associated with better mental health and more positive moods. How’s that for a whole lot of happiness?!