A quick Google search will give you a ton of information on how to raise smart and successful kids. Yet when asked what parents truly want, the most common response across age, income, gender, ethnicity, etc. is: “I just want my children to be happy.” This makes sense. Happier kids are more likely to turn into successful, accomplished adults–whatever that may mean. The definition of success can vary from person to person. It is subjective and not truly quantifiable but happiness, fulfillment, joy–these are the most obvious states of being anyone can have. You can identify happy people almost immediately, even with just the way they carry themselves, and all the more when they start to speak. There is a light to them that people naturally gravitate toward and their presence alone is a blessing. Who wouldn’t want that for themselves, much more for their child? So here are six science-backed ways you can raise happy kids.
If you remember only one thing from this article, let this be it. Happy parents raise happy kids simply because emotions are contagious and parents are our first, most influential role models. Studies have shown that a parent’s, more specifically, a mom’s satisfaction with her life is more important to a young child’s emotional well-being than her education, income, occupation, or the amount of time kids spend in childcare.
Also, when you’re unhappy and you hold your child as the object of your attention, you are not bound to like what you see. Think back on all the times our own parents seemed to find only our faults when we were growing up… in those moments, were they happy with themselves? Probably not, but we didn’t really have the maturity yet to deal with their pain.
Being accountable for your life means taking responsibility for your thoughts, your actions, and most importantly, your emotional state. Teach your kids to take charge of their own happiness instead of being merely a victim of circumstance. Many people blame their parents, the government, their teachers, or even God when they don’t like what they’re observing, but those who accept total accountability for their lives know that if they don’t like the results they’re getting, they can change their thoughts and actions and get different results! Empower your children, let them know early on what they can control–it is the best tool you could equip them with.
I wrote about ways you can raise positive thinking kids last year, and it’s always going to be important because what you focus on expands. Make it a habit for you and your children to actively seek out the good in every experience. Practice gratitude and appreciation daily. You’ll find what you look for. More than just positive expectations, optimism is a way to interpret what happens in a way that rids yourself of guilt, blame, or resentment.
Christopher McCandless wrote, “Happiness is only real when shared,” and I couldn’t agree more. Think back on all the best moments of your life–did you experience them alone? A fascinating study was performed by Bronnie Ware, a nurse in a terminal palliative care unit. She decided to poll her patients in their last days in hopes to uncover any regrets so others may learn. Majority of the results were relationship-related. People on their death beds didn’t wish for more success, they only wished they spent more quality time with others, like their families and friends. Demonstrate to your children your priorities by making time for those who matter most to you. Teach them kindness, respect, and conflict-resolution skills.
You can read more on this here. A growth mindset teaches your kids that practice makes progress. Perfection is not the goal as it isn’t the key to long term fulfilment. Help your children understand that happiness is not a destination. It’s the journey. Let them know that upon the achievement of one dream, you gain a new platform from which to give birth to a new desire, and that it’s actually a good thing.
British-American philosopher Alan Watts says that life is like a musical thing, and you were supposed to sing or to dance while the music was being played. In the past we’ve talked about involving our children in mindfulness and meditation, but most kids already practice mindfulness–fully enjoying the present moment–when they play. Play with your kids and watch how happy this could make you, too.