Parenting is hard work. Period! But being a parent can also be the most rewarding and fulfilling ‘job’ ever! Today’s let’s discuss 5 Tips to Raising Happy Children.
Every child is different, yet all children need the same basic things such as food, water, shelter, the need to feel loved, protected, nurtured, accepted and important. So what are some of the tools parents need in order to have a happy and emotionally healthy child?
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I am simply a Mom and Grandmother with life experience and the opinions listed below are strictly my own.
1. Be consistent
Imagine for a moment that you have started a new job. You have read all about your job description; what is considered appropriate attire, the time frames for taking breaks and lunch, retirement and insurance programs, how to earn vacation time, how much sick leave is allowed, where to park, etc… You go to work and proceed to do your job.
After the first several months you begin to notice that your boss is not consistent with his/her expectations of you. One moment they are complimenting you on a job well done, yet two days later they are criticizing you for the very job they just commended you on. You soon learn that the only thing consistent is that your boss is very INCONSISTENT! How frustrating!!! Because it is not clear what direction you should take, you never know the exact path to “success.” One day your decision is hailed as a “Great job!” However, the very next day that exact same decision is “What were you thinking?”
I don’t know about you, but I personally could not work in that kind of environment. I would be feeling a whole range of emotions such as anxiety, insecurity, self-doubt, questioning my choices and self-worth, frustration, anger and even some hostility. I would also lose respect for my boss, make light of any, (or all), of his decisions and eventually pack up my belongings and find a different job elsewhere.
REVELATION: THIS IS HOW YOUR CHILD FEELS EVERY SINGLE DAY WITH A PARENT(S) THAT IS NOT CONSISTENT.
I believe that this is one of the most important keys to raising happy children. If you want your child to be anxious, nervous, stressed, confused, angry, unhappy… then just be inconsistent in your parenting and discipline. If your child is reprimanded for something he is doing wrong some of the time, but not all of the time, then you are clearly sending a mixed message.
Little Johnny isn’t exactly sure what he can get by with and what he can’t; which can lead to continual feelings of anxiety and uncertainty. It can also lead your child into becoming more and more defiant towards you.
Have you ever heard a parent tell their child, “If you don’t stop right now you can’t go to the party tonight,” only to watch the child grow more and more defiant and rebellious because he knows his parents will not follow through with their empty threats? Every child tests their parents to see exactly where their boundaries are and children do what they do because they can!!!
Years ago I read about an elementary school in the middle of a city and their play-yard was surrounded by a fence. At recess, the children would play all the way out to the fence-line because they knew that the boundary kept them safe from the traffic on the street. One day, someone suggested that they do a study of human nature. The school removed all of the fence surrounding the play-yard for two weeks. Now, interestingly enough, at recess when the children went out to play, they huddled close to the building and didn’t venture out near the street. The children were uncertain where the boundaries were and therefore didn’t feel as secure and safe without them. The school eventually replaced the fencing and once again the children started playing all the way to the fence-line.
Children need to know where the boundaries are and be able to predict with 100% certainty that their bad behavior will be met with consequences. Never make empty threats to your child, make the punishment fit the crime, and always follow through with the discipline. If you do not enforce negative consequences for bad behavior then you are teaching your child that they can get what they want by throwing a temper tantrum or by simply “waiting” you out.
Say what you mean and mean what you say!!! As an example: When my children were young I had a rule about having friends over. The rule went like this: If you want to have a friend over then you need to ask me privately, not publicly. If you do ask me publicly then the answer is an automatic “No.” No questions. No argument. Simply NO.
I taught my children that they were not allowed to “put me on the spot” so to speak and make it uncomfortable for me to say no or look like the “bad guy.” When they asked me privately, this allowed me to have time to consider our schedule and perhaps explain why it may not work out for them to have friends over. They quickly learned that I meant what I said. When they ask me privately I felt respected and when they asked me privately the answer was usually a “Yes.”
If parents are not consistent in their discipline, then they are teaching their children that they can be manipulative and disrespectful to authority; which in turn will serve them poorly later in life.
2. DO WHATEVER-IT-TAKES
Have you ever trained for an athletic event? Or, perhaps you are a musician, an actor, a race car driver, etc…. To be good at anything it takes practice. To run a marathon you gradually push your body and develop the ability to run long distances; through all kinds of bad weather, aches and pains and fatigue. If you stick with your training, (and barring any injuries), you should eventually get to the point where you can run a marathon. It takes stamina. It takes endurance. It takes patience. It takes a “whatever-it-takes” kind of attitude to achieve your goal. It’s actually the same with parenting. No one said that parenting would be easy, however, if you have the right attitude, are steadfast in your rules and show a high level of commitment to being a consistent parent… it will have a positive impact on your child.
Remember… YOU are the adult – not the child. Your home. Your rules. If you give your “power” away to your child then that child will probably rule over you and make your life miserable. Your child will learn that by throwing temper tantrums, screaming, crying, throwing things, hitting, biting, or whatever… they can dominate you and eventually the child will get whatever he wants. That’s backward.
If you as a parent cannot handle your 5-year-old child, then what do you think is going to happen when that child turns 15? Do you honestly think that magically one day your child will think to themselves, “Oh… today I think I will start respecting and honoring my parents.” Ha. Dream on honey. As that child becomes bigger and stronger he will dominate over and disrespect you all the more. Hang tough. Stick with it. Be loving, yet firm.
3. PROVIDE YOUR CHILD WITH OPTIONS
There is balance in everything and it is important to allow children to have a voice. Whenever possible try to provide your child with options. For example, You are going to a wedding today and you want little Susie to wear a cute dress. However, Susie doesn’t want to wear a cute dress. She wants to wear shorts, a tee, and flip-flops.
First, inform little Susie that shorts, a tee, and flip-flops are not an option today. Maybe tomorrow, but not today. Next, have two or three dresses laid out on her bed and instruct her that she can pick any of the dresses to wear to the wedding. Her choice. Any of the three.
Now, if little Susie still wants to wear her shorts, a tee and flip-flops, remind little Susie that that is not an option and that if she doesn’t want to pick a dress you will be glad to pick one for her. She still may not be happy about wearing a dress to the wedding, however, you have provided her with options and that helps.
Remember to be consistent. If you allow little Susie’s tears to “wear you down” and you allow her to wear her shorts, tee and flip-flops to the wedding… well, rest assured… little Susie will remember that all she had to do was “throw a fit” to get her way. It worked this time… it will work next time. Plus… she will probably become more and more defiant. Why? It’s simple. Because.She.Can.
4. TAKE AWAY YOUR CHILD’S CURRENCY
Everyone has currency; including children. It may be in the form of spending time with friends, a cell phone, a car, a computer, toys, a blanket, a favorite movie, etc… Figure out what your child values and then you have leverage. Your child needs to know that “when he does X, he loses Y.”
It may seem harsh to take away things from your child, but if you remain lovingly consistent he will soon learn that you mean what you say and he knows exactly where his boundaries are. The message you are sending to him is that he can not manipulate you to give in to his whims or his temper tantrums.
On the flip side… be quick to “reward” your child. Who doesn’t like to be rewarded for a job well done? I sure do. Rewards do not necessarily mean objects. Rewards can be simply going to the park or the pool, playing a game together, baking cookies together, letting them stay up 15 minutes longer at bedtime, etc…
When my three children were young I usually took them shopping with me. I can honestly say that my children did not beg for candy, toys, etc… and they usually well behaved in stores. They did not grab items at the checkout and cause a scene if I didn’t buy it for them. Why? Because I had another rule that went like this: When we go shopping, if you grab, beg, cry, scream, throw a fit, make a scene, etc… you will automatically get NOTHING! But… on the flip side… if you are really good for Mom then chances are you will get a reward. Not always, but usually.
Guess what? It worked beautifully. Know why? Because I was consistent and they knew that I meant what I said because I proved it through my actions. If they did abide by the rule then I usually rewarded them with stopping to get an ice cream cone, or they were allowed to pick out an inexpensive toy or their favorite candy bar, or maybe we would grab a burger and stop at the park on the way home. The reward didn’t have to be anything big… as long as it was perceived as a reward for the child. They quickly learned that a reward was much, much, much better than any disciplinary action.
5. Invest in your children
Have you ever said to yourself, “I sound just like my Mom” (or Dad)? Whether you realize it or not, your children watch what you do. They pick up on your mannerisms, they repeat your words and phrases, they usually like what you like, etc… As parents, we are shaping, molding and grooming a future husband/father and wife/mother. You need to be keenly aware that little eyes are watching and little ears are listening; even when you think that they aren’t. You are helping to shape your child into the adult he/she will become. You are also helping to shape what kind of a parent they will become to your grandchildren.
As parents, we are shaping, molding and grooming a future husband/father and wife/mother. You need to be keenly aware that little eyes are watching and little ears are listening; even when you think that they aren’t. We are helping to shape our children into the adult he/she will become. As parents, we are also helping shape what kind of a parent they will become to your grandchildren.
Spend time investing in your children. Be a good example to them and their biggest fan. Do not be afraid to discipline your child. In doing so you are actually loving them and helping them mature into emotionally healthy adults. They probably will not recognize how hard it is to be a good parent until they become a parent themselves.
Reality check – there is no perfect parent. We all fail at times so don’t be afraid, to be honest, and admit it to yourself and to your child. But remember… just as we run a race, so we are running in a race with time. In a few short years, your child will be an adult, out on their own and probably married with children of their own. Don’t grow weary. You are training/coaching your child to run their own race. If you want your child to respect you and your authority as their parent, then be worthy of it. Earn it. They need your love, your guidance, your wisdom, your consistency, your boundaries, your discipline and your time. Your child and your home will be happier in the long run.
Here’s to happy and healthy children and a happy and healthy home.