How to Raise Happy Kids
“As a parent, especially a father, a man’s happiness is not pursued by abdicating his responsibilities of fatherhood. Happiness is spelled correctly with the example of your life.”
–Chris Gardner (author, motivational speaker, and philanthropist)
When the Declaration of Independence was drafted, it was Thomas Jefferson who spoke of the “unalienable Rights” that all individuals possess — among which are the preservation of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Whether it be searching for that special something or someone that makes us tick and the reason to get up in the morning or counting the years until retirement, everyone has a desire to be happy.
For all parents out there, I couldn’t think of a more demanding, yet more rewarding job than to raise a child — a happy one at that. The road to “happy parenting” may be a tricky one, though, considering all the developmental phases your child will go through and not to mention the day-to-day events that take place, with no guarantees along the way except most likely a gray hair or two. Just maybe, happiness may be a byproduct of its pursuit and associated struggles.
Related: The Science of Happiness
For many parents out there, it may be a daily challenge trying to balance life’s responsibilities and demands to make ends meet. Consider the real life story of Chris Gardner (portrayed by Will Smith in the film The Pursuit of Happyness). The moral premise goes above and beyond Gardner’s desire for the physical goal of money for mere survival. It ultimately reveals the happiness that being a responsible father brought him through the trials and tribulations.
There are some takeaways from the missing “i” in “Happyness” that you can apply to help shape your child into becoming a happy individual, despite any challenges — at any given time in life.
The FIVE “I PARENT POSITIVE STRATEGIES” TO PUT INTO PRACTICE WITH YOUR CHILD…NOW!
1. I…must take personal responsibility for my actions.
– Your child is modeling your behavior and continues to do so on a daily basis and it is important to be the example of what you wish your child to grow up to become.
2. I…respect my child and listen to his/her dreams and desires.
-When Chris Gardner was on the basketball court with his son, he initially discouraged his son to play basketball because he “probably would take after his father and be mediocre.” Not until it dawned on Gardner that his lack of encouragement translated into his son’s sadness and sudden disinterest in his passion did he say:
“Don’t ever let somebody tell you that you can’t do something…not even me. You got a dream, you got to protect it. People can’t do something themselves, they want to tell you that you can’t do it. You want something, go get it — period!”
3. I…will show interest in my child’s life.
– Be involved in your children’s lives by asking them about the best and worst parts of the day. Kids want to know that their parents care about what is going on in their lives and that they are consistently showing genuine interest in their daily lives.
4. I…will structure the environment to provide structure.
– Provide and consistently apply rules that are fair and enforceable. Children may not visibly express liking rules, but it gives a sense of much-needed security and stability in their lives. The environment should contain healthy food, a clean living space and positive interactions between family members.
5. I…will accept my child for who he/she is.
– Acknowledge your child’s perspectives and demonstrate empathy. A child feeling understood will experience a sense of relief and support that can be used in different situations in life. On the other hand, when a child feels repressed or constantly judged, those feelings don’t fade away, but rather manifest unpredictably in frustration, nervousness, depression, rebellion, and/or rage. Encourage children to express and manage their feelings by using healthy outlets such as reading, writing, drawing, painting, acting, singing, dancing, sports and participation in leadership-based activities.
Related: Acceptance is the Key
For more information on empowering your child and assisting in their maturation and overall development: Check out Doug’s official website: www.douglashaddad.com
Douglas Haddad is a public school teacher, nutritionist, parenting blogger, and the author of parenting/child guidance book Save Your Kids…Now! The Revolutionary Guide To Helping Youth Conquer Today’s Challenges and co-author of Top Ten Tips For Tip Top Shape: Super Health Programs For All Professional Fields.
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This post originally appeared on our May/June 2014 Magazine