We all want happy, cooperative kids with a great sense of self-worth.
But how do we get there? How do we make children want to cooperate? How do we contribute to making them happy?
A magic wand, incredible talent, or special training of the parent? Or maybe luck – children that were born happy and cooperative?
NO. But it does take certain parental habits for happy kids! Behaviors we can all adopt and apply!
Here are five things to start with immediately that can have a major impact on your child and on your relationship with your children.
What a parent does around their children has a major impact on how the children will act and feel about themselves.
Do you want remarkably happy, cooperative children with a great sense of self-worth? Do these five things every day:
1. Engage With each child individually
Sure, it is convenient to bundle your kids together if you have a few of them, but that is not going to create a strong bond with each of your children.
Children who do not receive attention and love individually are much more likely to make sure they get attention – even if it is through testing your limits and acting out.
Your job as a parent is to help your children grow into loving, independent persons with a strong sense of self-worth. You can’t possibly do that by treating your kids as a group that you drive to school, serve dinner, wash, and put to bed together. Convenient and time-saving for sure, but it is not a way to really know your child.
So give attention to and spend time with each of your children separately.
An inspiring way to interact with your child is by using a time-in toolkit, like this one. They are meant to help the parent and child connect in a playful way and practice social and emotional skills at the same time. I love them!
2. Focus on the good and fun
Praise your children for who they are and what they do. Have fun with them. A laughing child who feels good about herself and feels loved is a lot more likely to cooperate.
How much fun is nagging? How efficient is it? Bite your tongue every time you start repeating instructions to your child over and over again. Obviously, your way of communication isn’t very effective, so try another way!
Some efficient ways to get children to listen are preparation and body and eye contact. Are you positive that your child really heard you say (for the 10th time) to turn off the TV? You won’t know unless you give these instructions with eye contact. So maybe it is your fault that your child isn’t responding. How fair is it then to yell the 10th time, which happens to be the first time your child actually heard what you said?
Also, remember always to give at least five times more praise than corrections. For the child, that is going to feel like about 50% of each; that’s how bad it feels to get corrective feedback for any human.
3. Deal with problems immediately and with little fuss
Children should never hear their parents say, “Why haven’t you got dressed yet, although I told you to 10 minutes ago? It is the same thing every day: you never listen to me. Are you deaf or something?”
Yet many children do hear comments like that, and by that, they are taught that they do wrong all the time – only mom or dad doesn’t necessarily tell them all the time. Talk about walking on a minefield. How would that make you feel – knowing that your boss is collecting your mistakes silently, only to blow up in your face at any point in time?
Children live in the present. (Lucky them!) A friendly reminder (with eye and body contact) will solve many, many situations where your child isn’t following your instructions. Your instructions happened in the past (2 minutes ago), and are so easily forgotten when something more exciting is happening right now.
4. Serve your children, not yourself
Our children are not in this world to build their self-esteem; we are here to build theirs. You can get away with acting selfishly and taking things personally for a while, but over time, putting your own interests and feelings above those of your children will inevitably push your children away from you.
So your child is yelling that you are dumb or ugly, and he hates your guts. Not fun to hear! Is it about you? Should you treat it like it is about you? A child loves her parents no matter what. No matter what. So whatever comes out of their mouths when angry and frustrated isn’t relevant. It is not about you. (Unless it is relevant feedback, of course.)
Conscious parents listen to what is behind these tantrums. Empathy with the overwhelming feelings of your child will get you a lot further when it comes to connecting with your child, building your child’s self-worth, and helping them handle their emotions in less destructive ways than telling your child off or letting the harsh words hurt your self-esteem.
Your child is not responsible for your feelings. You are.
Prioritizing your children is not about losing your great career and all your hobbies (but maybe a couple of them). Just as much is about being present with your children whenever you have the chance. Really present. Not thinking about what your boss said or what you’ll cook for dinner. Not checking your emails.
Serve your children by being present with them and not taking things personally.
Whether you like it or not, you are your child’s role model. Act one!
5. Always remember that you are a role model
Once upon a time, you were a child, too. A child afraid of darkness, afraid that mom and dad would disappear, envious of other children’s toys, feeling left out, annoyed when your mom or dad told you to go to bed or turn off the TV. It wasn’t that long ago.
As adults and parents, we may often think that our children’s views are narrow-minded, that they lack perspective, and don’t know what’s best for them. So they should do what we tell them to. Because we know better.
But you know, your child will do what you do, not what you say. If you take the time to listen to your child, empathize with their thoughts and feelings, and try your very best to meet their needs, chances are a lot higher that they will do the same for you.
Whether you like it or not, you are your child’s role model. Act one!
If you don’t listen to your child, why should your child listen to you (or anyone else)?
If you yell at your child, why should he or she act differently when feeling upset?
If you prioritize your own interests, feelings, and needs, how will your child learn to care about others?
So what if every day, starting now, you act by these parental habits for happy kids:
- Prioritize your children,
- make them feel loved just the way they are,
- laugh together,
- take part in their thoughts, interests, and feelings,
- communicate your instructions well in time, clearly, and friendly,
- and stay calm and caring even when they are acting out…;
…imagine how that will make your children feel and act.
Imagine what remarkable parents your children will be in the future…
More about Positive Parental Habits for Happy Kids
- Attachment Parenting For Babies
- Avoiding Power Struggles At Meals
- Bonding With Baby Q&A
- The 5 Love Languages of Children: The Secret to Loving Children Effectively (Bestselling book, link to Amazon)
- Attached at the Heart: 8 Proven Parenting Principles for Raising Connected and Compassionate Children (Link to Amazon)
Share your thoughts below. Do you have any examples of when you used any of these parental habits for happy kids and what happened? I’d love to hear them!
Paula Dennholt founded Easy Baby Life in 2006 and has been a passionate parenting and pregnancy writer since then. Her parenting approach and writing are based on studies in cognitive-behavioral models and therapy for children and her experience as a mother and stepmother. Life as a parent has convinced her of how crucial it is to put relationships before rules. She strongly believes in positive parenting and a science-based approach.
Paula cooperates with a team of pediatricians who assist in reviewing and writing articles.