RAISING HAPPY CHILDREN
TEN SIMPLE WAYS TO MAKE YOUR CHILDREN'S DAY
Having happy children is not a case of hit-or-miss. There are concrete steps you can take to increase the chances that you and your offspring will have a better day. Every day. Try these simple steps and see if you don’t see immediate improvement in the quality of your days together.
Put a note in their lunchboxes. For that extra special gesture of tender loving care, tear a strip off the grocery list hanging on the refrigerator or the post-it pad in the junk drawer and jot a little note to your youngster. Imagine the look on her face when she opens up her Hello Kitty lunchbox and sees a piece of paper sitting on her juice box that says “Have a good day, sweetie. I love you” in your handwriting. It only takes two seconds to write, but the benefits are timeless.
Play a game. Everybody’s busy. But nothing will mean more to your children than to see you stop the crazy machine of your life, sit down with them, and play a game. And today, the options are nearly limitless. You can go hi-tech and whip out your Wii, GameBoy, or Xbox. Or, for a change of pace, why not go more “old school” and play a game of cards (War, Fish, Crazy Eights, and Old Maid are perennial favorites). Consider, too, such classics as Hide and Seek, I Spy, and if on the family road trip, playing the find-every-state-in-nation’s-license-plate game has been a sure-fire crowd pleaser since the invention of the Model-A.
Attend Their Events. Whether it’s the kindergarten singing performance, the little league game, or the Brownie camp-out, attending your children’s events will tell them that you care and make their days with you more special. Nothing beats clocking that ball into the outfield, making it to first base, and turning in time to see your mom give you a thumbs up or taking a bow after your dance in The Nutcracker and seeing the smile on your father’s face. Similarly, spending some volunteering in your child’s classroom—and whether they say they like it or not, they do!—will also tell your child that he or she is special and that you are willing to make an investment in who they are.
Wake them with a song. No one likes hearing the alarm go off in the morning—not even your children. Therefore, making their wake-up time as pleasant as possible can set the tone for the entire day. Try waking them up with a happy little song in the morning and see if it doesn’t improve their attitudes. An upbeat hymn from church might do the trick (“Rise and shine and give God your glory, glory. . .”) or a more secular option might be in order (The Beatles’ “Here Comes the Sun” is an obvious, yet effective, possibility!). Keep in mind that you don’t have to be the next American Idol; you’re children just need to know that you want them to be happy and that you’re setting the example by approaching the day with the right stuff.
Tuck them in at night. Ending the day in the right frame of mind is also very important. One of the best ways to do that is to make going to bed an important part of your nighttime ritual. After putting on pajamas, brushing teeth, a visit to the bathroom, and story (or talking) time, take a moment and really “be present” as you tuck your children in. Tell them why they’re important to you and how grateful you are that they are in your life. Without exception, they will remember these moments for the rest of their lives.
Read to them. Being read to is one of the great pleasures in life—whether you’re five or seventy-five. Take some time with your youngster, grab a book, and tell them a story. For older children, read a chapter from a chapter book and then discuss what happened in the plotline. Use that time as an opportunity to bond, learn, and grow together. You and your child will both benefit from this special time together.
Surprise them with ice cream. It’s hard to beat an unexpected stop at the ice cream shop to improve one’s attitude. A few unexpected scoops of strawberry cheesecake or chocolate malt can do wonders for a child’s psyche (it doesn’t exactly hurt the grown-up’s state of mind, either!). Consequently, this kind of surprise is guaranteed to raise your child’s spirit. It must only be used occasionally, however, or it becomes expected and then it loses its currency as an attitude adjuster.
Tell them you’re proud. No matter how “challenging” an individual child might be, every single one does things parents can be proud of. The key is to tell them so. Don’t generalize, however. Don’t say, “I’m proud of you for all the good things you do.” Your child will say, “like what?” Instead, choose a particular behavior (preferably something that happened recently) and refer to it specifically. Say, “I was proud of you for hitting the ball so well during your softball game” or “I was proud of how well you did on your math test.” The good vibe will transfer from you to your child and you will see them beam with their own pride.
Hug them. When your children least expect it, put your arms around them, give them a good squeeze, and tell them how much they mean to you. Smothering your child with affection is one of the single best ways to make them feel better about themselves, their lives, and you. As an added bonus, hugs have the wonderful quality of making both the hugger and the huggee feel better.
Say TheThree Magic Words. You know what they are. Say them to your children. A lot.