Many of us worry whether or not our kids are happy. We envision for them great things, like lucrative careers, high-standard academic achievements, and maybe even stardom. And so we push our kids to work hard, but often what truly makes them happy are great things in small packages. It’s the simple yet profound significance of the words and actions we choose to use around them. It’s not the pressure we put on them, it’s the confidence we instill in them that will help our kids succeed and find happiness.
Here are a 6 ways you can make your kids happier:
1. Take Weighty Discussions and Adult Arguments Elsewhere
Kids absorb everything—including your words, though they don’t always understand their definitions. But they do know how to translate angry tones and nonverbal gestures and facial expressions. Not knowing how to handle adult problems can leave them feeling insecure and worried. Keep the stuff that is too big just yet for their comprehension under wraps.
2. Don’t Compare Them to Others
Unless you want to diminish their self-esteem, don’t use their siblings or other kids as examples. This applies to both negative and positive comparisons. Don’t say, “Joey listens to me the first time. Why can’t you do that, too?” All your child will hear is “nothing I do matters. Mom only cares about what Joey does.” And instead of saying “Joey really likes basketball, maybe you should join the team, too,” use a more direct approach by asking, “would you like to play basketball? Do you think that would be fun?”, or “what activity would you like to try?” Mentioning another child might seem an innocent approach to gaining your child’s interest, but it is still a comparison and can still be just as damaging.
3. Teach Them the Value of Negative Emotions
Being angry or sad isn’t wrong. What’s wrong is letting those emotions control you or your body, i.e. hitting, name-calling, etc. Don’t punish negative emotions. Instead, teach your child how to appropriately handle their negative emotions. Really drive the point home by modeling good behavior. Feel to get angry in front of your child. If someone cuts you off in traffic, say, “I am so angry right now! See? Mom gets angry sometimes, too! And it’s okay to be angry.”
4. Let Them Make Mistakes
This is how they learn that their actions have consequences. It also teaches them the joys of triumphing over obstacles. And along the same note, let them do their own homework. While it may be tempting to hover over their shoulder and correct every mistake they make, this is asking for your kid to develop a complex. Let them learn to handle their own work. Let them wrestle with the material themselves. Let them fail at the first try. Help them, don’t micromanage them. If they fail, ask them what they learned and what they will do differently next time. And regardless if they succeed or not, acknowledge their efforts. This will help them feel OK about trying again.
5. Consider Their Viewpoint
No matter their age, let them speak. Even if what they have to say seems trivial or silly to you, it is absolutely important to them. And really listen to them, too. Don’t just nod and make noncommittal noises. Set aside 15 minutes every day and ask them questions to engage them in conversation. Let them do most of the talking. This means putting down your phone, turning off the TV, and truly listening to what they have to say. Or, if they don’t feel like talking, simply spend that time just hanging out with them—again, sans electronic devices.
6. Be Happy Yourself
Often as parents, we tend to put aside our own happiness for the sake of our children. Remember, your little ones are watching you. Do what makes you happy and be sure to let them see how that happiness brings you to life. After all, it’s hard for kids to be happy when their parents aren’t happy. You can show your happiness by flashing them a huge grin every time you see them—when you pick them up from school or from a friend’s house. This way, even if your day was lousy, you are sending them the message that they make you happy. This is a great to their confidence and self-worth!