Children are naturally happy little people. They can find happiness and enjoyment in the most trivial things and almost everything. As they grew and exposed to the norms of society, their brains began to adapt and fit into the expectations of family members and adults around them. They also see how adults around them define happiness. Thus, happiness to them becomes conditional because adults put a label into the word happiness. Adults put so many “ifs” in “happiness”, if I achieve this if I get that if you do this, etc. The once instinct of a child to be happy is slowly vanishing into obscurity and replaced with the conditions we put into happiness.
Why raise children to be happy and not to be successful? They can be happier when they are successful, can they? Why aim for happiness when we can train them to be smart? Are smart people, happy people, aren’t they? These assumptions can be valid if we start with the end in mind—establishing a happy brain first. It is a scientifically proven fact that happy people have healthier brains, our brains become more receptive to stimulus therefore we learn best when we are happy. When the brain learns more neural connections light-up. There are also health benefits for being happy such as, a stronger immune system, resilience in the face of stress, stronger heart and less risk of cardiovascular diseases. On the contrary, unhappy people are more prone to perform worst in school and work, have lesser social connections, and more vulnerable to depression.
The following are scientifically-backed steps and suggestions for raising happier children.
- Make yourself happy first. The child gets the vibe and energy of the people close to them. Whatever the constant mood around the child he becomes it. It is statistically proven that happy children have happy parents.
- Nurture your relationship in the family. A study found that kids with nurturing moms have bigger brains, 10% larger hippocampus. When children are nurtured at home, empathy naturally comes out from them. Then they can relate well with other people which in turn they gain more friends.
- Give more importance to effort over ability. What does this mean? Parents who push to the limit the ability of their children, banging them relentlessly about achieving this and achieving that, are more likely to have kids with anxieties, depression and substance abuse. Parents who showed appreciation to the efforts put forth by their children, no matter how their task turned out, are more motivated and likely to enjoy a more challenging task. On the other hand, children who are praised for their abilities rather than their efforts have a more difficult time coping with failures.
- Train your child to be optimistic. This trait is more caught than taught. If you show optimism even in the most difficult times your children will accept that as a natural response and over time they will develop optimism because they experienced it from you.
- EQ matters more than IQ. When your child is having emotional issues such as sadness, anger, frustration or even happiness, validate their feelings. Never tell your child to stop crying or stop being angry. Process the feeling, ask why. Why are you sad? It’s OK to be sad. I know you are angry. Tell me why are you angry? Empathize with their feelings, validate their feelings and label it correctly. There must be a label for every feeling.
- Allow for more playtime. When the child is playing, all of his senses are stimulated. The child uses his imagination, language skills, social skills and psychomotor skills when he is playing. When the child is playing the brain function is at the optimum.
- Set a happy environment for the child. You cannot expect your child to be happy when he lives in gloomy surroundings with gloomy people around. Also, limit TV viewing. There is research that links TV viewing to unhappy children.
- Encourage your child to be generous. Helping people by being generous creates good feeling and boost self-confidence. Studies found that children as young as two years old showed more happiness when they give treats rather than when they receive.
- Eating together. Yes, this is also science-based. Some studies show that dining together as a family have a strong link to happy, emotionally stable kids.
Most parents equate success with happiness. They thought that their children become happy adults if they reach the pinnacle of success. Success to most of us means a good career, perfect job, popularity and wealth; these are the things that what we teach and show our children. Having these things as our standards we push our children to do whatever we want them to be, not what want to become. There was a long-running study of Harvard University that seeks to find the secret to happiness. The researchers enlisted 267 Harvard students to participate in the study. Their lives were studied, tracked down and recorded for almost 80 years. The result was contrary to what others would have expected that fame, wealth, and power are the ultimate measure of happiness. Surprisingly, findings revealed that more than money or fame, participants who maintained a good relationship with their families and friends turned out to be the happiest.
HOW TO RAISE HAPPY KIDS: 10 STEPS BACKED BY SCIENCE https://time.com/35496/how-to-raise-happy-kids-10-steps-backed-by-science/
THE HAPPINESS ADVANTAGE: WHY A HAPPY BRAIN WILL BRING YOU MORE SUCCESS? https://www.emergeuk.com/uncategorized/the-happiness-advantage-why-a-happy-brain-will-bring-you-more-success/#:~:text=Thinking%20positively%20has%20a%20chemical,capacity%20whenever%20we%20feel%20good.
THE SCIENCE OF RAISING HAPPY KIDS. https://www.happify.com/hd/the-science-of-raising-happy-kids/