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10 Scientifically-Based Ways To Raise Happy Kids

10 Scientifically-Based Ways To Raise Happy Kids

We all know the feeling–we just can’t spend enough time with our kids. We feel guilty that it is affecting their growth.

Recent good news might help ease your guilt. A new study that determined quality time with kids holds less sway than parent education and stress levels. Trying to cram in more time, especially when you’re grumpy or irritable, just isn’t the answer.

So what do you do during those times together? Here are 10 scientific tips for raising healthy, happy kids.

1. Nurture your child

Showing your children how much you love them doesn’t only nurture your relationship with them—it can help form a strong bond and contribute to a child’s ability to create lasting bonds into adulthood. Parent nurturing could be related to the size of a preschooler’s hippocampus, an area of the brain responsible for learning and memory.

Don’t underestimate the power of a kiss on the cheek. Respond to your children with emotion. Tell them you love them. Speak kindly to them.

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2. Model responsible behavior

For kids to develop into responsible, productive citizens, they must witness responsible, productive citizens. And that starts with you. Sociologists have shown that children will imitate behaviors they witness in their parents.

Be the kind of person you want your child to be. With each action or decision, ask yourself if this is how you want your child to react in the future.

3. Objectively mediate sibling conflicts

Research shows that parents who successfully mediate conflicts between siblings have children who eventually deal better with conflict.

When a conflict arises between siblings, demonstrate active listening techniques and other mediation skills.

4. Read with your kids

Reading with your kids induces healthy changes in several brain regions. These changes seem to be more prevalent when you read with your kids, not to your kids. Ask your children what they are thinking about the story or how it relates to other things they know.

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5. Create unstructured playtime

According to experts, free playtime encourages imaginative thought and problem-solving skills. They become better at asking “what if” and determining alternative solutions to difficult or complex situations.

While it can be tempting to structure every hour of the day to make sure it’s filled with important activities, don’t forget to leave open time for kids to explore and imagine.

6. Teach them to use technology wisely

Conventional wisdom used to be that face time with a screen was unhealthy for kids. In fact, several studies show that the time spent watching television can both predict and cause depression.

Not so fast, though. Technology is an integral part of today’s existence. In 2014, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and private companies spent nearly $3 billion on technology education because it is so necessary to participate in today’s world. Access to technology makes learning more engaging, as four out of five students said using a tablet helped them in class.

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Evolution of Tech in the Classroom - 4

    Rather than simply shutting out electronics, practice healthy habits such as setting time limits on usage and asking children what they’ve learned on their laptop or tablet that day.

    7. Be authoritative

    Parenting styles can be broken down into four major categories: authoritarian, authoritative, permissive and uninvolved. Science has consistently held that authoritative parenting—authority with communication—yields the best results.

    Don’t be afraid to put your foot down when it comes to major issues. However, in doing this, make sure you communicate your feelings and concerns, as well as why a certain behavior yields a certain consequence or punishment.

    8. Let them fail

    In today’s everyone-gets-a-trophy world, it can seem counter-cultural to allow your kids to fail when they struggle. However, failure can be an extremely important lesson. Studies show that failing actually leads to greater productivity throughout life and helps develop advanced problem solving skills.

    9. Take care of yourself

    Research demonstrates than parental stress can affect a child’s physical or mental well-being. In addition, mood disorders and perhaps even autism may be linked to parental stress, both pre- and post-childbirth.

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    Figure out what you need to maintain your happiness and sanity. If it means finding a babysitter so you can treat yourself to a movie once a week or enrolling in college classes to get a degree, taking care of yourself is critical in taking care of your child.

    10.  Teach them to share

    It’s better to give than to receive. Research shows that sharing improves a child’s disposition. For instance, toddlers who were asked to give away treats to other toddlers showed greater happiness than others.

    Start young by asking your children to share snacks with you, and share with them. Make the event a special treat so that the habit becomes natural, and always show your gratitude when they want to share.

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    Last Updated on January 15, 2021

    7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

    7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

    The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

    Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

    Posture

    First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

    • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
    • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
    • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
    • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

    All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

    Facial Expressions

    Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

    • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
    • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
    • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

    If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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    1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

    A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

    The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

    This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

    2. Relax Your Face

    New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

    The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

    To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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    3. Improve Your Eye Contact

    Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

    The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

    To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

    3. Smile More

    There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

    Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

    4. Hand Gestures

    Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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    It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

    5. Enhance Your Handshake

    In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

    “Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

    It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

    6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

    As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

    Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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    Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

    Final Takeaways

    Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

    If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

    More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

    Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

    Reference

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