Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Sean Platt of the Writer Dad blog.
Nature and nurture are in a never ending battle to claim the disposition of our children. While it’s true that the apple rarely tumbles too far from the tree, it is also true that there are a multitude of things we as parents can do to safeguard the childhoods of our children, limit their exposure to the more damaging elements the world will see fit to introduce in time, and do our best to raise a healthy and happy child.
We might not be able to help the variety of our branches, but we are the ones who control the nutrients in their soil and the sunlight in their sky.
In addition to the obvious things such as making sure your child is consuming the right nutrients, staying hydrated, and getting the quantity of sleep and exercise a growing body needs, here are 7 secrets that can help you raise a happy child.
1. Let your child know you are excited to see them when they enter the room. Let them see the light dance inside your eyes when their gaze drifts into yours. Be mindful of their presence by showing them your smile and greeting them warmly. Say their name out loud. Not only do children love to hear the sound of their name, they also long to feel validation from their loved ones. Think about it from an adult perspective – wouldn’t you love it if the face of the person you loved most lit like a holiday parade every time you entered the room? Your child loves you the most, imagine the returns after a childhood filled with such affection.
2. Teach your child it’s okay to be bored. As parents, it’s often our instinct to entertain our children each and every waking hour. When we don’t possess the time or energy, it is all too easy to allow the glowing blue babysitter in the living room to do the heavy lifting. But when we rely on television, or any other form of autopilot attention, we succeed only in limiting our child’s development. Children have vivid imaginations that flourish upon nurturing. But without the opportunity to coax their creativity, it will only whither on the vine. Allow your child idle minutes to develop their creativity with hands-on activities to stimulate their thought. A few sheets of paper and a box of crayons can keep a well rounded child busy for far longer than an episode of Dora.
3. Limit your child’s media. Related, but not limited to number two. Limiting your child’s exposure to media isn’t only a positive move for promoting their creativity, it is an excellent method to broaden their attention span while grooming their ability to stay calm. Your child will have plenty of exposure to more than you want soon enough. During those precious years when you are the designer of their decisions, you must make sure they are learning to live a life independent from the over-exposure that is often too easy to rely on. Yes it is difficult, but we owe it to the next generation to search for the right road rather than the easy one.
4. Let your child know they are more important than work by giving them eye contact and attention. Your child doesn’t just need you around, they need you present. Play with your child, interact with them, find out what is important to them by asking questions and listening to their answers. Your child deserves at least a little bit of you each and every day, at least a few minutes where you are not considering your email or allowing your thoughts to wander over what’s been left sitting on your desk. Letting your child know they are important is like giving them an insulin shot of happy.
5. Let your child make a few of the rules. You don’t have to make them the boss to let them feel empowered. Often, power struggles with our children are the direct result of them feeling a loss of control. You can easily curb these instances by allowing your child to feel like they are part of making up some of the protocol. By at least appearing to give your child some of the control, you are helping them understand household law inside and out. This will lead directly to a willingness to follow.
6. Teach your child – don’t assume it’s all happening outside the house. Home schooling is every parent’s job. Whether your child attends public or private school, or receives all their schooling at home, it is essential to the world’s best future that parents are the ones to fill in the blanks. There are plenty of skills not taught in school that play a massive role in determining who your children will grow up to be. Children are not raised in tupperware, and when they finally leave us to enter the world far away from our watchful eyes, they must have the sharpened tools that will help them be the best that they can be.
7. Model appropriate behavior. In my opinion, this is the most important item on the list. Children do as they see, not as they’re told. If you want your child to be mindful of others, you must be mindful of others yourself. If you want your child to by happy, you must smile without hesitation. There is no one more influential to your child than you. At least for now.
Raising a happy child is hard work, but it is something that can and must be done. Once you focus on the needs of your child and ensure you are doing all you can to meet them, your efforts will be rewarded. You will have a healthy and happy child, fortunate to have been raised in a family where childhood wasn’t permitted to simply fade away.