Recently I was given an article titled: How to Raise a Happy Child. It occurred to me that I never really thought about this as a goal, raising a happy child, and always just assumed that it was out of my control whether my children ended up being happy. It was their job to make sure they live and participate in activities that make them happy.
It was interesting to learn that as early as 6 months of age you start impacting whether your child is set up to live a happy life. Simple things like smiling a lot at your baby so the act of smiling is imprinted in their brain or acting calmly and loving to an upset baby helps the baby learn that there is calm and soothing world around them.
You can read the article for all the details, but here are some of the highlights:
- Learn to Read the Signs:
- Learn their reactions so you can better address them when their emotional intelligence develops.
- “While the youngest infants don’t really feel happy when they look happy, the good news is they’re not emotionally aware when they’re screaming, either. Eliot explains that the “cortical emotion centers” of your baby’s brain don’t begin to function until he’s 6 to 8 months old, when he starts to feel the emotions that seem so vivid on his face.”
- Make Room for Fun:
- “Connect with your baby, play with her. If you’re having fun with your baby, she’s having fun. If you create what I call a ‘connected childhood,’ that is by far the best step to guarantee your child will be happy.”
- Unstructured play will allow her to discover what she loves to do — build villages with blocks, make “potions” out of kitchen ingredients, paint elaborate watercolors — which can point her toward a career that will seem like a lifetime of play.
- Help Them Develop Their Talents:
- Pay attention to what they’re interested in
- Help and encourage them in things they’re interested in and allow them to struggle a bit. Once they accomplish the task they’ll have a greater sense of joy and happiness and will learn that they have some control over their environment
- Healthy Bodies, Happy Children:
- This seems a bit obvious, but make sure they have sleep and plenty of healthy nutritious food and plenty of room to let out their energy
- I was speaking to a friend who was overweight as a child and said he never liked to run, but later in life once he lost weight be loved to exercise. When I asked why, he simply said “It’s not fun to run when you’re fat. It’s actually uncomfortable to move.” So stay away from fast food and sweets, fill up your kids on healthy food — you’ll set them up for a happier life.
- Let Them Struggle with Problems:
- According to the article, some of the most unhappy and bored kids are those that are spoiled and lavished with toys and activities.
- It’s important to let your baby struggle to understand that not everything is always perfect
- “In the first six months of a baby’s life, it’s important for parents to respond to their infant’s needs. “You can’t spoil a baby,” says Masia-Warner. But after about six months, if you run over at every little hiccup, you’re taking away an important learning opportunity. Masia-Warner says it’s good to let babies cry a little as long as you’re giving them lots of positive affection and attention the rest of the time.”
- Allow Them to Be Sad or Mad:
- Similar to the item above: they need to learn you can’t always be happy and have everything perfect
- It also teaches babies to try and identify what their feeling and you can show them a book of faces for angry, sad, bored, etc… for them to begin to learn each of these emotions
- Be a Role Model:
- If you’re miserable, your kids probably will be too.
- Set the example that happiness is something you work at, not something that’s automatic or handed to you
- “According to Dora Wang, assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine, research shows that you can pass on your temperament to your children — not necessarily through your genes — but through your own behavior and childrearing style.”
- Teach Them to do Meaningful Things:
- Charity and community involvement by giving back always lifts the spirits and more importantly teaches babies and kids that giving back creates happiness on both sides
- Some fun examples to start doing with your baby: brush their hair then let them brush yours, give them a bite of a piece of food and let them offer you a bit of theirs
Lots to think about, most things seem obvious, just more pressure that we as parents have a LOT to do with how happy and successful they are in their lives. No pressure Mommies! 😉