WhatMakes a Child Happy?
We all want the same things for our kids. We want themto grow up to love and be loved, to follow their dreams, to find success.Mostly, though, we want them to be happy. But just how much control do we haveover our children's happiness? "The research clearly shows that happy,optimistic children are the product of happy, optimistic homes, regardless ofgenetic makeup." What can you do to create a home where your child'shappiness will flourish?
The surest way to promote your child's lifelongemotional well-being is to help him feel connected -- to you, other familymembers, friends, neighbors, daycare providers, even to pets.
Don't Tryto Make Your Child Happy
It sounds counterintuitive, but the best thing you cando for your child's long-term happiness may be to stop trying to keep her happyin the short-term.
To keep from over coddling, recognize that you are notresponsible for your child's happiness, Harris urges. Parents who feelresponsible for their kids' emotions have great difficulty allowing them toexperience anger, sadness, or frustration. We swoop in immediately to give themwhatever we think will bring a smile or to solve whatever is causing themdistress. Unfortunately, Harris warns, children who never learn to deal withnegative emotions are in danger of being crushed by them as adolescents andadults.
While we can't control our children's happiness, weare responsible for our own. And because children absorb everything from us,our moods matter. Happy parents are likely to have happy kids, while childrenof depressed parents suffer twice the average rate of depression,
Praisethe Right Stuff
Not surprisingly, studies consistently linkself-esteem and happiness. Our children can't have one without the other.
Praising specific traits -- intelligence, prettiness,athleticism -- can also undermine children's confidence later, if they grow upbelieving they're valued for something that's out of their control andpotentially fleeting.
Allow forSuccess and Failure
If you really want to bolster your child'sself-esteem, focus less on compliments and more on providing her with ampleopportunities to learn new skills. Mastery, not praise, is the real self-esteembuilder, The great mistake good parents make is doing too much for theirchildren.
While it can be difficult to watch our kids struggle,they'll never know the thrill of mastery unless we allow them to risk failure. Theydevelop the can-do attitude that lets them approach future challenges with thezest and optimism that are central to a happy life.
"Happiness depends largely on the feeling thatwhat we do matters and is valued by others,". "Without that feeling,we fear we might be excluded from the group. And research shows that what humanbeings fear more than anything is exclusion."
Finally, happiness studies consistently link feelingsof gratitude to emotional well-being. The important thing is to make it aregular ritual. "This is one habit that will foster all kinds of positiveemotions and it really can lead to lasting happiness."