Parents know that you are only as happy as your least happy child. The journey through childhood is often filled with unseen and unexpected mind fields. The question is how to navigate them effectively. Ah — “There is the rug.” The road map to happier parenting has a key, which is unlocked with the heart. Keeping in mind that all children are individuals, and that different families have different teaching styles, there are some essential things that parents can do to positively effect childhood. This is how to be a happier parent.
Fifteen strategies to happier parenting include:
- Bonding – A well-bonded child is a more secure child, and will do better in all things, including; problem-solving, sticking with a task longer, holding images longer, plus cognitive and social development.
- Be There – Children learn more at the knees of their primary caretakers than from anyone else in their lives. They learn about their identity, how to separate effectively and how to be self-actualized.
- Good Modeling – Being nurtured, having their needs met, and being able to count on their parents (right or wrong) to advocate for them, children learn that they are worthwhile. Then their behavior is influenced, not by the need for approval, which puts them in jeopardy for peer pressure, but rather for their contributions.
- Be Reliable – If children can count on you, they will count on themselves and ultimately on the world at large. This has the effect of giving your child the feeling that they matter, and that sense of self-value is one of the main building blocks for good self-esteem.
- Mutuality – Invest your child in the process of problem-solving. This establishes him as a significant part of his family. If you invest your children in the creation of the rewards and consequences of his life, you are effectively giving him a voice, and not only will he be more likely to behave, but also more likely to make responsible choices as he realizes that he has a choice.
- Communicate – The best way to communicate is through active listening. This is how to reconnect to your child, as well as getting an update on his life, including his emotional, social, and school life, including academics. Active listening requires that the family has a safe space for personal encounters where confidences are kept; each person gets their turn to talk with the full attention of the others; and most importantly, no one defends their position, but rather just listens. Furthermore, none of the sensitive and tender information is ever used against each other. This environment is best served in a neutral place — not anyone’s power space — such as a bedroom, office, or study. The kitchen table is perfect, as it is the heart of the house where alchemy happens and all things are transformed.
- Empathy – Teach empathy to your children by modeling empathy. We know that bullies lack empathy for the most part, and the empathic process is an inoculation against being a victim. This approach gives children the opportunity to experience the consequences of their actions, and sensitizes them to the feelings of others by connecting them to their own feelings.
- Activities – Don’t overwhelm your children with activities, either to over-compensate for not being there, or by pushing them to compete. Children, across the board, whether they are model students or troubled students, want more time with their parents – not more activities.
- Rules – Children respond well to consistent structure as it offers children stability in an often unstable childhood, touched, perhaps by divorce, abuse and grief. This is all about knowing the house rules. And once again, children do better when they are invested in the process of their own rewards and consequences. Childhood is often a time of feeling out of control, as children have to surrender to the will of their parents. Structure often helps children feel in control as they know what to expect, what their options are, and how to choose responsibly.
- Guidance – Guide your children gently towards individuation. Don’t make them tear away. From the beginning of their lives, children are striving – stage-by-stage – for freedom. Help them get there successfully, and they will thank you. This is your opportunity to offer freedom within limits. Parents are entitled and required to parent, and that means establish the boundaries for acceptable behavior, while supporting children’s need to have more and more independence. This is a reciprocal relationship since the trustworthy child is the beneficiary of trust.
- Stress Reduction – Childhood is a time of great stress as children test themselves against their environment, while experiencing the hormonal changes associated with growth and development. Teach your children stress reduction techniques that you can do as a family, such as physical exercises, yoga, chi gong, tai chi, etc., which can take the edge off – as well as progressive relaxation techniques, breathing exercises, and meditation. Not only is this a fun thing to do with your children, but also an effective way to raise immunities and enhance learning. It is also a way to connect in an intimate way with your family. A consistent routine works best and gives the family something connecting and intimate to look forward to.
- Playtime – Play with your family. Be sure that this play is free-time without any structure. The more spontaneous, the better. Have fun with no other rhyme or reason other than sheer pleasure.
- Individual Time – Spend individual time with each child. This allows each of your children to experience you as their own particular parent, and this allows you to make allies out of your children.
- Be Fair – Being even-handed takes a lot of confusion and conflict out of discipline, as it inhibits splitting, jealousy, and destructive competition.
- Simplify Your Life and Go Back to Basics – Do routine things with your children – read a book, take a walk, bake cookies, cook a meal, set a table, cuddle, spend reflective and contemplative time together. You can’t spoil your children with love. Pay attention to your children; know your children; meet their needs; nurture them, and love them. Love is more than an emotion – it is something tangible. And together, you and your children can find happiness by simplifying your life and just being . . . together.