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11 Things Every Parent Should Know To Raise A Happy Child

11 Things Every Parent Should Know To Raise A Happy Child

From the first sonogram to the first day of college, parenting can be simultaneously the hardest and the most rewarding job. When I asked parents their top five priorities for their child, happiness was at the top of most lists. And yet with bullying, anxiety and depression in our world, how can we change the culture of fear-based parenting so that our children can truly flourish? Here are a few tips from positive psychology experts that can be easily incorporated into your parenting andhave been proven to increase happiness.

Listen

Actively listening to your child means eye contact, not interrupting, and not waiting for your turn to talk. If they aren’t asking for advice, don’t give it. Instead ask them questions like, “What do you think you could do about that?” or “How did that make you feel?” Really hearing what your child wants to tell you will encourage them to continue communicating. Making every conversation a lesson (given by you) leaves them feeling inferior and disempowered. Take advantage of time together in the car or at meals and practice just hearing their ideas with an open mind.

Make mistakes when they are watching

Resilience allows us to make lemonade out of lemons or to get back on the bike when we have fallen off 10 times. Children learn more from your example than they do from your words. If you want them to believe that part of growth is making mistakes, they need to see you burn dinner or fall on the ski slopes occasionally. One of your most powerful opportunities to demonstrate this to your child is when you make a parenting mistake. Let’s say you lose your cool and yell. Instead of hoping they will forget your outburst you can say, “I don’t want to yell at you when I am frustrated. I’m sorry. Even mommies make mistakes.”

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Let them make messes and mistakes

Happy children know they can cope. They have learned by getting off at the wrong bus stop or pouring the milk too quickly and having it spill. According to child psychologist JoAnn Deak, kids feel supported when they don’t do something right the first time and they are more likely to keep trying. This leads to children with greater problem solving skills as adults. The ability to think outside the box is more about nurture than nature. When they learn this type of thinking in childhood, it translates to success in adult years.

Spend time outside together

No matter where you live, you can find nature. Getting outside boosts moods and provides time where you are really focusing on the activity at hand, according to a study published by Richard Ryan in the Journal of Environmental Psychology. Whether you are hiking, biking, swimming, canoeing, or just walking the dog, nature helps to release stress.Studies show outdoor time helps children grow lean and strong, enhances imaginations and attention spans, decreases aggression, and boosts classroom performance according to the National Wildlife Federation.

Teach them gratitude

Gratitude is the fastest shortcut to happiness.Studies done at Berkeley have linked gratitude to increased personal well-being. If children are grateful for what they already have in life, they are more likely to be happy. Starting a family ritual of sharing the best moment of each family member’s day and one thing they are grateful for every time your have a sit down family dinner. Families who sit down to eat together raise healthier children.

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Praise them often for what they do not what they are

Humans have a negativity bias. We remember the bad stuff in our day more than the good stuff. The chemicals released by negative emotions like anger and fear just pack a stronger wallop than the gentler positive emotions like hope, inspiration and joy. Carol Dweck’s research has found that to counteract this we need to praise them seven times for each time they hear something they perceive as negative. Praise needs to be given in a very specific way for it to be most effective. When a child is praised for being smart they get a boost in their happiness. However smart is something you are not something you work at. Inevitably even the best student will find something that they have to work harder to be successful at. If your child thinks that they are smart when things come easily and not smart when they have to work at things, you are setting them up to stop trying when things get tough. Instead, praise your child for their planning, their effort and their technique. That way when things are tough you can point out how great they have been at figuring things out in the past.

Have fun

“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” The best part of childhood is all the playing. Show your kids how to climb trees. Dress up and be superheroes together. Have a tea party or a dance off. The sillier the better. Happy children laugh frequently.

Teach them compassion

Compassion is two-fold: compassion for self and compassion for others. Many children receive the message from their parents, “I love you when you are good” or “I love you as long as you love me”. Teaching a child to be self-compassionate means demonstrating love in an unconditional way. Removing your love as a penalty for bad behavior causes them to believe that when they act a certain way they are not worthy of your love. According to parenting expert Thomas Gordon, it is best to avoid statement like, “if you loved me you wouldn’t do that’. Never attach your love to their behavior and they will learn to love themselves.

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Modelling compassion for others is the second part. Show your children how to be empathetic and caring. Help people. Volunteer together. Point out how fortunate you are to live where you live and have what you have so they develop gratitude for things they might otherwise take for granted.

Show them love

Of course this means your physical hugs, cuddles and kisses. It also means demonstrate hugging, holding hands and kisses with your partner and your extended family too. Our sensory system is built to support our need for social connection. Touch is one of the best ways to do this. Just like we feel a decrease in stress hormones after petting a dog, physical contact is one of the ways humans share connection and boost positive emotion. According to Dacher Keltner in an article published by the Greater Good Science Center, “In recent years, a wave of studies has documented some incredible emotional and physical health benefits that come from touch.”

Help them learn to regulate their emotions

The prefrontal cortex is one of the areas of the brain most sensitive to parental influence and interaction. This is the area that deals with emotional regulation. If your child wants a cookie before dinner and you say no, most children will attempt to use a cute baby voice with a “puh-lease”. Then when that doesn’t work they whine. And if they still don’t get a cookie they might scream. This is where you have the chance to react to their scream. Note to new parents: if you give them a cookie you have taught them that screaming works to get what they want (same as if you cave at whining or feigned cuteness). If you get anxious when your child is frustrated or disappointed,your child will learn to have your reaction–anxiety. Instead model appropriate emotional reactivity and praise them when they do too.

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Give them wings and watch them fly

Our job as parents is ultimately to teach our children how to care for their own needs. The sooner a child begins to feel successful at self-care, the better. We worry so much about all the things that might go wrong that we sometimes rob our children of the opportunity to try. Start with simple things. How many times have you started the shower for your child when they are fully capable to turn on the water and check the temperature on their own? These are the baby steps to self-sufficient and happy adults. But it all begins with a happy child.

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Last Updated on January 3, 2020

The 10 Essential Habits of Positive People

The 10 Essential Habits of Positive People

Are you waiting for life events to turn out the way you want so that you can feel more positive about your life? Do you find yourself having pre-conditions to your sense of well-being, thinking that certain things must happen for you to be happier? Do you think there is no way that your life stresses can make you anything other than “stressed out” and that other people just don’t understand?  If your answer is “yes” to any of these questions, you might find yourself lingering in the land of negativity for too long!

The following are some tips to keep positive no matter what comes your way. This post will help you stop looking for what psychologists call “positivity” in all the wrong places!  Here are the ten essential habits of positive people.

1. Positive people don’t confuse quitting with letting go.

Instead of hanging on to ideas, beliefs, and even people that are no longer healthy for them, they trust their judgement to let go of negative forces in their lives.  Especially in terms of relationships, they subscribe to The Relationship Prayer which goes:

 I will grant myself the ability to trust the healthy people in my life … 

To set limits with, or let go of, the negative ones … 

And to have the wisdom to know the DIFFERENCE!

 2.  Positive people don’t just have a good day – they make a good day.

Waiting, hoping and wishing seldom have a place in the vocabulary of positive individuals. Rather, they use strong words that are pro-active and not reactive. Passivity leads to a lack of involvement, while positive people get very involved in constructing their lives. They work to make changes to feel better in tough times rather than wish their feelings away.

3. For the positive person, the past stays in the past.

Good and bad memories alike stay where they belong – in the past where they happened. They don’t spend much time pining for the good ol’ days because they are too busy making new memories now. The negative pulls from the past are used not for self-flagellation or unproductive regret, but rather productive regret where they use lessons learned as stepping stones towards a better future.

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4. Show me a positive person and I can show you a grateful person.

The most positive people are the most grateful people.  They do not focus on the potholes of their lives.  They focus on the pot of gold that awaits them every day, with new smells, sights, feelings and experiences.  They see life as a treasure chest full of wonder.

5. Rather than being stuck in their limitations, positive people are energized by their possibilities.

Optimistic people focus on what they can do, not what they can’t do.  They are not fooled to think that there is a perfect solution to every problem, and are confident that there are many solutions and possibilities.  They are not afraid to attempt new solutions to old problems, rather than spin their wheels expecting things to be different this time.  They refuse to be like Charlie Brown expecting that this time Lucy will not pull the football from him!

6. Positive people do not let their fears interfere with their lives!

Positive people have observed that those who are defined and pulled back by their fears never really truly live a full life. While proceeding with appropriate caution, they do not let fear keep them from trying new things. They realize that even failures are necessary steps for a successful life. They have confidence that they can get back up when they are knocked down by life events or their own mistakes, due to a strong belief in their personal resilience.

7. Positive people smile a lot!

When you feel positive on the inside it is like you are smiling from within, and these smiles are contagious. Furthermore, the more others are with positive people, the more they tend to smile too! They see the lightness in life, and have a sense of humor even when it is about themselves. Positive people have a high degree of self-respect, but refuse to take themselves too seriously!

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8. People who are positive are great communicators.

They realize that assertive, confident communication is the only way to connect with others in everyday life.  They avoid judgmental, angry interchanges, and do not let someone else’s blow up give them a reason to react in kind. Rather, they express themselves with tact and finesse.  They also refuse to be non-assertive and let people push them around. They refuse to own problems that belong to someone else.

9. Positive people realize that if you live long enough, there are times for great pain and sadness.

One of the most common misperceptions about positive people is that to be positive, you must always be happy. This can not be further from the truth. Anyone who has any depth at all is certainly not happy all the time.  Being sad, angry, disappointed are all essential emotions in life. How else would you ever develop empathy for others if you lived a life of denial and shallow emotions? Positive people do not run from the gamut of emotions, and accept that part of the healing process is to allow themselves to experience all types of feelings, not only the happy ones. A positive person always holds the hope that there is light at the end of the darkness.  

10. Positive person are empowered people – they refuse to blame others and are not victims in life.

Positive people seek the help and support of others who are supportive and safe.They limit interactions with those who are toxic in any manner, even if it comes to legal action and physical estrangement such as in the case of abuse. They have identified their own basic human rights, and they respect themselves too much to play the part of a victim. There is no place for holding grudges with a positive mindset. Forgiveness helps positive people become better, not bitter.

How about you?  How many habits of positive people do you personally find in yourself?  If you lack even a few of these 10 essential habits, you might find that the expected treasure at the end of the rainbow was not all that it was cracked up to be. How could it — if you keep on bringing a negative attitude around?

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I wish you well in keeping positive, because as we all know, there is certainly nothing positive about being negative!

Featured photo credit: Janaína Castelo Branco via flickr.com

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