Childhood is a special time in one’s life. A time of discovery, play, wonder, and amusement as the child gets to know the world around them. For the parents, this time can bring about a sense of worry, as they seek to ensure the child’s health and happiness. Of course, life happens, to both the child and the parents, bringing experiences which can affect one’s childhood years. Regardless of circumstance, the child’s happiness almost always comes first to those who love them. Whether you’re a parent, want-to-be parent, or someone who just loves kids, we hope that what you read below will provide some great insight into making for a happier child.
Give them plenty of time to play. The primary responsibility of a child is to play. Yes, they will eventually have homework, extracurricular stuff, and so on; but from toddler to adolescence, they should be given the freedom just to have fun. Peter Gray, a child psychologist and professor at Boston College, states “Children learn the most important lessons in life from other children, not from adults…they cannot learn, or are much are much less likely to learn, in interactions with adults.” So, tell them to go outside and play!
Take argument and heavy discussions elsewhere. A child’s brains develop at an extraordinary rate during early childhood. When they see and hear about adult-like problems, and uncertainties, the child’s delicate psychological state can be negatively affected; potentially making them worried and insecure. Children should not hear stressful conversations from adults, it is most definitely not the time.
Don’t compare them to others. The pressure to succeed in today’s society can make it enticing to instill an early sense of competitiveness in your child, and some adults do so by comparing them to someone else. Sometimes, adults will also point out desirable personality traits in another child, hoping to duplicate them.. Researchers say that such comparative tendencies can adversely affect a child’s confidence and sense of self.
Teach the benefits of negative emotions. Almost every child will have spontaneous outbursts of anger, envy, sadness, etc. This behavior presents a good learning opportunity for the adult. Dr. John Gottman at the University of Washington cites the popular tendency of adults to address a child’s perceived “misbehavior”, their negative emotions, by doling out some punishment. A better way is to acknowledge the behavior by teaching the child that everyone experiences negative emotions, and finding ways to teaching the child how to deal with their emotions constructively.
Acknowledge their efforts. The child is going to reach the age when he or she knows that hard work is needed to get ahead. It is important, then, to recognize when the child pushes themselves to accomplish something. Talking about cognitive tasks during childhood, Dr. Carol S. Dweck at Stanford says: “Our message to parents is to focus on the process the child engages in, such as trying hard or focusing on the task, what specific things they’re doing rather than ‘you’re so smart, you’re so good at this…what the adult does early matters.”
Value family traditions. Having a variety of things that a family does together is a good sign of a stable household; with stability being an important aspect of childhood development. According to the Child Development Institute, having regular family time induces five main benefits: the child feels important and loved; the child observes positive adult traits; adults can observe and learn more about their child’s weaknesses to guide them better; the child can verbalize their thoughts and feelings, and the parent and child develop a stronger bond.
Let them take chances. Children require a certain amount of supervision; yet, adults can overdo it by monitoring their every move. This overparenting, however, is counterproductive to development. Researchers, in an article published in the Journal of Psychologists and Counsellors in Schools, write: “Does an extreme attentiveness to a child and their imagined needs and issues, encourage parents to reduce their demands on their child, resulting in the child rarely facing adverse situations, learning to cope, and acquiring resilience, maturity, and other essential life skills? The current study raises the disturbing possibility that the answer is yes.”
Give them a sense of individual responsibility. Expanding on the last point, it is important to allow children to complete responsibilities without micromanaging them. Why? According to child psychologists, an excessive amount of oversight can manifest into the child developing an “I can’t do this alone” attitude. While some attention, and even, discipline, is necessary for a child to recognize the consequences of abdicating responsibility, inordinate supervision is ineffectual.
Create happy memories. In a multi-experiment study undertaken by two Harvard professors, adults who recalled good childhood memories “seemed to summon a heightened sense of moral purity.” Researchers note the participants “were more likely to help the experimenters with an extra task, judge unethical behavior harshly and donate money to charity when they had actively remembered their childhood.” So, in creating happy memories for the child, you may be preparing them to be happy and benevolent adults.
Be happy yourself! Children learn by what they see and hear, for better or worse. If an adult exhibits positive behavior, the child is more likely to reciprocate. According to Carolyn Cowan, a psychologist at the University of California: “children do not fare well if the adults aren’t taking care of themselves and their relationships.”