How to Raise Happy Children

 

  1. Do not nag. Everybody hates to be nagged at. Listening decreases as nagging increases.
  2. Try not to lose your temper. It’s hard, I know. I lose my temper once in a while and the results are always bad. I’ve gained considerable amounts of patience just by remembering that losing my nerve won’t get me where I want to go.
  3. As much as you can, ignore bad behavior. If there is no risk of grievous bodily damage to anyone, try to turn the blind eye. Not because you’re such a lazy parent and you just don’t care, but because the child is much more likely to stop that behavior if you don’t credit it with your attention.
  4. If you have to do something to make the child stop, try to do it without displaying too much emotion. Say, if the child tries to get up on the table, just take them down without saying anything or looking mad. Looking bored is pretty good. Sigh and say: “What are you standing on a table for” like standing on tables was the dullest thing in the world. You might try saying: “That don’t impress me much.”
  5. However, if you do tell them no, stick to it. Every time you start to make a point about something and then give up half-way, your authority erodes.
  6. Serious things call for serious actions. If your child does something which might result in someone getting badly hurt, intervene immediately and assertively. The child must see that the action he or she has committed is serious. Later you can explain why not behaving in that manner is important but at that moment you just need to make the child stop. There’s no playing around with the really important stuff. When you don’t overuse your angry or fearful tone of voice, the child is more likely to pay attention when it matters.
  7. Have fun with the child. The best thing to do for well-behaved children is paying them a lot of positive attention and showing how much you enjoy their company. If you’re genuinely nice to someone, they usually try to be nice back. Nothing improves a child-parent relationship like laughing together.
  8. When a behavior really is a problem, try rewarding good behavior using stickers or other such system. It’s important to follow a few rules with this: You should always set your child up for success by giving them every chance to succeed. If the problem is bedtime, the parent needs to make sure the child is tired enough, well-fed enough, has had enough playtime, parental time, and adequate bedtime routines exist before assuming that the child should be able to settle down. Another thing to remember is that rewards can easily turn into punishment: once a sticker has been earned, it belongs to the child. You can’t just take it back because you got mad for some reason. Your boss doesn’t reclaim your paycheck just because you did something wrong at work, either. That would be illegal. Anyway, you’d soon find yourself going into negative stickers and the point of the whole exercise (which is giving your child the experience of succeeding and getting rewarded for doing the right thing) is lost. At the same time, don’t go soft and give stickers away for practically nothing. This is a balancing act. The child should make an effort to get a sticker, but if getting one is too difficult the child will be discouraged.
  9. Make the consequences clear and make sure the child knows them. For example: “If you don’t stop when I tell you to stop, you will not be riding the bike for the rest of the week. If you don’t stop when I tell you, you might get hit by a car.” In our family, this rule is followed 100% of the time. A single attempt to thwart it will result in the bike being confiscated, since a single attempt to disobey might result in death or injury. It’s good to explain both the immediate, motivating consequence for the child (losing the bike) as well as the reason behind the rule (to prevent child getting hurt). This way the child improves his or her understanding of the reasons behind the rules, and it also reinforces the concept of you being on the same team as the child.
  10. Show them that you’re a team. Keep in mind that you are working towards the same goals. Sometimes this is easy to forget. When you want the child to put his shoes on, and the child wants to play with his Lego, it might be difficult to find common ground. At those times it is good to remember that deep down both of you want the same things: for the whole family to be safe and happy. You’re just coming at it from different angles at that moment.
  11. Avoid power struggles at all cost. The aim is to have the children follow you because they want to follow you, not because you won the last fight. If the children are under the impression that there might be some grounds for them to battle for power, they are not respecting you like they should. Don’t chase them, don’t scream louder when they scream, don’t sink to their level. You’re the adult. You don’t have to assert your authority by fighting over it.
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9 thoughts on “How to Raise Happy Children

  1. I don’t have children (yet?), but I find these points so perfectly outlined in my own childhood, and in my teaching practice actually! Especially the follow through, and knowing the consequences and why the rule stands.

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  2. Looking back, how I wish I understood these concepts when we first started out. By the grace of God my guys grew into great men, but our home would have been happier had I understood team dynamics instead of acting the supreme authoritarian. Well written, my friend.

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    1. That’s so true, it can be very difficult to find the right balance between too authoritarian/too permissive. And most of the time people just do what their mothers and fathers did anyway. Or at least that’s what I see myself often doing 😀

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  3. Power struggles like cleaning their room? We’re still having that one and he’s 37 years old! Well he and his dad are. I gave up on it a LONG time ago. As long as it doesn’t spill out of his room… 😦

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