Do you want a happy child who grows up to lead a happy life? What good parent doesn't? But it’s no easy task. This article will familiarize you with the research on happiness . . . and present parenting tips for contributing to your child’s long-term happiness, health and well being . . . while improving your relationship with your child.
First of all, kids are not miniature adults, and need to be treated like the special creatures they are . . . kids! And adults in training. They need your protection and support, guidance and love, and the best possible parenting you can give them. And, they need your help in learning how to live a happy life.
After all, happiness is a skill, or set of skills.
The trouble is . . . many parents don’t really know how to help a child become a happy child, who stays that way.
No wonder . . . parenting is hard enough . . . and until the past several years, there was no scientific research on the subject of happiness.
But now we know how to help a child become a happy child. And lead a long, happy life, based on objective studies designed to discover the art of happiness.
And happiness is serious business . . . happy people are more resilient, recover from illness more quickly and live longer than those who are unhappy. The benefits are many!
You see, happiness is so serious it shouldn’t be left to chance. Give your child every advantage to grow into a happy child.
What Does The Happiness Research Say About How to Raise A Happy Child?
Let’s begin with relationships . . . the happiness research strongly suggests happiness begins with healthy relationships. Controlling, addictive or abusive relationships only enslave and keep people from being happy. A child who grows up with an understanding of relationships and good relational skills will be at a significant advantage when it comes to being happy.
Those who lack relationship savvy will suffer in all realms, in the personal realm, business and community realms. Sadly, those who fear relationships, or cling to them, will be at a great disadvantage when it comes to being happy. No one is ever truly happy as an island. We all need connection, interaction, love and support to live a happy life.
The research says outgoing individuals with a love of people are more likely to be happy throughout their lives than shy or withdrawn people. So, how do you raise an outgoing child who is comfortable with people? The easy answer is to expose them to varied social situations in a way that gives them many positive social experiences and increases their comfort in dealing with people of all stripes.
Also, you can be a good role mode, which provides a behavioral framework for a happy child. Don’t tell ‘em what to do, show ‘em! Strive to build and keep good, strong relationships. Give and receive love. Provide leadership in your world, and let the kids learn by example. But . . .
Keep in mind, if you fail to value and care for your relationships, or ignore and neglect your relationships, treating them like throw-away commodities, your kids will automatically pick up on your bad habits. Your children need to see you actively caring for people and devoting your time and effort to your relationships, otherwise how will they learn? And you’ll need to push them in the right direction, offering sage counsel when they need help with their relationships.
You’ll want to take their relationships seriously!
So take good care of your relationships and show your kids how to do the same. Involve them in lots of appropriate social situations and nurture their relational skills. We’re talking about raising kids with high emotional intelligence. Intellectual or cognitive skills are nice, but it’s the emotional IQ that will play the biggest role in your child’s success or failure on the job or in a serious relationship. Everyone makes fun of smart kids who lack social and emotional skills, the nerd who is more at home with facts and figures than real people. Will he live a happy life?
If he learns how to form and maintain happy relationships he will be more likely to live a happy life! A happy child has a way of becoming a happy adult.
Research shows the best leaders are those who are the most skilled at giving and receiving love. You can’t lead unless you can love. A good supervisor has to have an employee’s back, or his/her other management skills will go for naught. Strong managers tend to be emotionally sophisticated, although there are some old school control-types who think they’re doing good work by intimidating and manipulating people.
Research in the field of management shows happy employees are the most creative and productive, and the most likely to weather the difficulties of the job most effectively.
If you want your kid to grow up and become a happy child, you’ll want to give him/her every opportunity to develop good social skills, work with others and develop a sense of fairness and team play. Your grown child will need to be able to form new relationships, keep them healthy, and handle the many kinds of conflict that can arise in human relationships. These are skills our schools and religious organizations strive to teach, but you must do your part at home. Yours is probably the single most important part.
Research shows optimism reduces heart attacks, protects against cancer and extends life span. So, by all means, teach your kids to be optimistic and positive. Again, make sure you aren’t lecturing them on the merits of optimism. Lectures don’t work. In fact, they backfire by causing resentment and rebellion. Share the power of optimism with your child by living an optimistic, happy life. Be optimistic, find the silver lining in every cloud . . . teach by demonstrating the skill in your every day life.
Marty Seligman studied optimism among new Met Life agents and found that strong optimists outsold moderate optimists 21% the first year and 57% the second year!
Another powerful skill that leads to happiness is gratitude. People who express gratitude and stop to feel it inwardly reap multiple benefits. Show your kids how to be grateful by expressing in rich and intimate ways your own gratitude to others. Express gratitude to your children and thank them from the bottom of your heart for the good things they do. Give tons of support. Pause to celebrate your kids’ successes, and give generously of your gratitude, and you’ll be helping him/her to lead an authentic happy life.
Instill relationship values in your children. One way to do that is to build healthy relationships with each of them. Show them how to avoid unhealthy relationships. Encourage independence, honest communication, understanding and forgiveness. Celebrate your child’s uniqueness and difference, rather than forcing him/her to comply with your expectations/needs or someone else’s. Shape their behavior through positive reinforcement, and by allowing them to learn from their own mistakes, rather than by punishing them.
Remember, a happy child has happy relationships.
And most of all, encourage your kids to have fun, and to develop a playful and curious approach to life. I feel an ethic for having fun is more important in the long run than obedience and perfection. Of course, perfectionism is as neurotic as all get out. And the focus becomes not making a mistake, which sends the wrong message and sets up failure.
Life is short and little is gained through seriousness and sourness. Research shows kids and adults learn more and advance more quickly by having fun. If your kids aren’t laughing and experimenting, they aren’t learning to their potential. Make learning a fun-filled game and your kids’ brains will grow by leaps and bounds.
Have fun being a parent . . . and always be willing to live and learn. Try not to be right all the time, and love your kids but let them live their own lives.
Hovering over them as they grow and mature will only handicap them. A strong, resilient child is one who lives and learns a lot. One who can laugh at himself and avoid taking himself too seriously. These are skills you can teach them. And, if you have a good time doing it, they’ll have a good time learning from you. And they’ll learn lessons they can keep and use for a lifetime.
To raise a happy child, who will live a happy life, you’ll want to:
1. Wake your kid up to the happy child within
Didn’t you love the movie, Joe Versus the Volcano? Meg Ryan’s character said, “My father says that almost all the world’s asleep, everyone you know, everyone you see, everyone you talk to. He says that only a few people are awake, and they live their lives in a state of constant total amazement.”
How true, how true! Wake your kids up to the beauty of the world around them. Introduce them to nature, to green and growing things, mountains and streams. Take them camping. Show them how to hike, go bird watching and enjoy the night sky. Rolling in the grass and wading in the creek will be good practice in waking up your child so he/she can live a fully happy life.
Happy people know how to appreciate the natural world, and attune themselves to it. They draw inspiration from it and feel at one with it. And in times of crisis, they allow it to heal them.
2. Give them a sunny disposition
A happy child has a naturally positive temperament. But, how can you help to ensure your a sunny disposition?
Build your own sunny outlook and your kids will follow suite. Your optimism and happy-go-lucky approach to life will infect everyone who lives in your household with a passion for positive thinking and finding joy in every waking moment. Show your kids how to have fun and make the most of every situation, and they’ll learn from you.
Nothing equates more with living a happy life than a positive outlook on life. So be positive and practice positive thinking. In a study of nuns, published in 2001, positive feelings predicted longevity. The most cheerful nuns lived longer lives, and the least cheerful lived shorter lives than the average nun.
3. Help your kids to discover a yearning for learning, which every happy child has. My puppy is extremely curious . . . too curious for some. Adults want to scold him for his curiosity, and admonish him for his energetic forays into the world of fascinating flower pots, handbags, hamster cages, water hoses, grocery bags, underwear, shoes and telephones, and anything and everything else in and out of the house. But puppy needs to learn about all these things, and to absorb the many lessons each new trinket or gadget affords. Each discovery he makes is a lesson in disguise . . . a lesson he needs to learn . . . a lesson to aid him in his quest to survive and thrive in his world, and to carve out a happy life for himself. Embedded in his curiosity is a powerful desire to learn and know.
Natural curiosity is the seat of intelligence, and ought to be reinforced, not punished. Give ‘em a safety net and let ‘em fall, but make sure they’re trekking across that proverbial length of tightrope, or they’ll never learn to get cozy with the world, or themselves, and discover the happiness that awaits them in everyday mysteries of life.
A curious child who is always learning is indeed a happy child!
Even as adults, happiness can come from exploring unknown parts of the world, and finding hidden joys therein. Cultivate the skill in your child, and he’ll keep it for a lifetime, and reward you by living a truly happy life.
Positive emotions, like curiosity and delight, help kids thrive, whereas negative emotions (such as anger, fear and shame) can hold kids back. Encourage your kids, don’t shame them. Lift them up, don’t put them down! And your kids will grow into happy, resilient adults who can handle whatever life throws at them without despair, and with a minimum of fuss.
In the Final Analysis
There is nothing like a happy child. Thankfully, there are many ways you can influence your child’s happiness, but we’ll save those for future articles. You can have a big influence on your kid’s future by simply building a good foundation for a happy life when he/she is young.
So every one of your kids will be a happy child, just remember to help them to:
1. Awaken from their slumbers and to be fully awake
2. Keep a sunny disposition
3. Learn a yearning for learning
Your kids will be happier and more joyful. They’ll be healthier and live longer, more productive lives.
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