Are your children happy?
Even though happiness is genetically linked, only about 50% of happiness is driven by genes. The other 50% is driven by what happens to a child on a daily basis.
One of the most important contributors to a child's happiness is doing things as a family. Nothing feels so special and good as when a family goes biking or hiking or spends part of the day at the zoo.
I know one family who has designated Wednesday nights as family night. This is the night nothing interferes. They have dinner and then play board games. Even the 17-year old participates. "Once you set a night and stick to it month after month, year after year, it becomes the expectation," says the mother, "and our children look forward to it."
Another happiness ingredient is working together. Spending four hours cleaning the backyard, the basement, and the house each Saturday morning, encourages a feeling of camaraderie and a sense of being part of the team. We're a family. We're in this together. "One for all and all for one."
Research shows that children tend to be happier when parents set expectations and rules. Children do better when they have a set bedtime and when they are expected to do certain chores each week, pick up after themselves, control their language, and show respect for other family members. When parents have expectations, it conveys to a child that he has worth. And meeting these expectations helps a child feel more in control of his own destiny.
Feeling happy and content is also a by-product of feeling loved. Pats on the back from parents and "I love yous" sprinkled throughout the week are essential. And applause for a job well done recognizes a child's accomplishments.
Happiness involves living in the present. Everyday should be a time to build family relationships. This means: "Let's talk as we do dishes." "Let's put on a CD and dance." "Let's watch a movie and enjoy each other's company." Too often parents put happiness till later, saying, "Next weekend when go to your cousin's ..." or when we go on vacation ..."
Children feel happier if they have God in their life. God is someone to talk to when they feel anxious and stressed. Or when no matter how good they try to be, they can't change something in their lives.
Children are happier if family members get along and are respectful of each other. This means no screaming matches, no name-calling, no constant criticisms. Nor should a parent use a child as a confidante, telling him the other parent is not OK. It also means an older or younger sibling is not allowed to tyrannize the family.
If you want to raise a happy child, ask yourself if you are following these guidelines. And if you're lacking in some areas, now's the time to make changes. Most parents want to raise and live with a happy child. Following these guidelines, spells success.
Check out Doris' latest books, "The Boy Whose Idea Could Feed the World," "The Parent Teacher Discussion Guide," and "Thin Becomes You" at Doris' web page: www.doriswildhelmering.com.
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