Child on Father Shoulder Raising a Happy Child
Photo by Kelli McClintock

When parents are asked what they would like for their children, there is one thing they all want. 


But what is happiness? Happiness for children is not getting everything they want, it isn’t living the most luxurious life. Happiness is coming home to a parent that loves them. A parent that listens to them. A parent that helps them get through their tough times. A parent that appreciates their accomplishments. A parent that watches the way their eyes light up when they learn something new. Happiness is having a loving parent, someone that will always be there for them and accept them no matter what.

 In order to achieve true happiness, a parent must love their child for who they are, without putting themselves in the picture. They must understand that their child might not always agree with them, or even need them, and that that’s okay – the parenting process should be entirely selfless.

woman carries child piggy back on blacktop road happy kids children
Photo by @drag88

 In this region, parents tend to “over-parent,” raising kids that don’t have a sense of self-worth, or some of the most essential life skills. Parents must stop snowplowing the way for their children. It shouldn’t shame your family that your child has to start from zero and work their way to the top when getting a job. It is not a shame for your child to fail or struggle. Teach them how to get back up. Teach them the life skills they need and allow them to live a life for themselves and not for others.

As an individual that has conducted thorough research and worked with kids in different age groups with different kinds of families, I’ve put together key scientific elements for parents who are serious about offering their children a great quality life. 

Here are 8 Steps to Raising Happy Kids Backed by Science

1) Be Happy Yourself 

How can one possibly make others happy if they aren’t happy themselves? 

To raise kids in an authentic happy and healthy environment, parents must be happy themselves. As highlighted in Raising Happiness by Christine Carter, individuals with emotional problems make for less effective parents, and emotionally unstable children.  

What’s the first step towards happiness? Start creating a habit of showing gratitude for the things you have, it won’t only make you happier, but it will also improve your relationship with your children and those around you, as well as train your brain to see the positive. 

2) Teach Them Emotional Intelligence

Children’s brains are always growing rapidly; they constantly notice the changes around them, learn how to adapt and develop ideas based on their emotional experiences.

 So why do we educate them about so many aspects of life, but not about emotional intelligence?

Teaching kids about emotional intelligence by enlightening them on how to recognize their emotions, reflect on their experiences, understand what triggers their feelings, and how to deal with that; teaches them the essential skills needed to achieve true happiness and success. It allows them to be in sync with their feelings, and enables them to self-reflect, thus creating constructive mental habits that allow them to grow as individuals, and understand more about the problems they may be facing.

grayscale photography of kids walking on road - Happy - happiness - children
Photo by Annie Spratt

 3) Teach Them How to Build Healthy Relationships

The key to teaching your kids how to build healthy relationships is by forming ones with them. Children must develop a secure attachment with at least one primary caregiver, and several others, from a young age; children that grow up with a healthy and happy attachment to their parents stand a superior chance of creating cheerful and valuable relationships with others throughout their lifetime.

In order to maintain this healthy and secure attachment, parents must respond to their children’s emotional cues and make themselves available when needed. This forms the foundation of their children’s self-esteem, and allows them to experience things more freely, because they know there will always be someone to help them resolve their conflicts.

4) Spend Quality Time Together

Celebrate your successes together, sit down and share your thoughts with each other, have daily meals together, etc.

Just like the emphasis of our ancestors on having meals as a family, science has proven that family dinners help mold better, happier kids with higher self-esteem. These kids have a greater sense of belonging, become more emotionally stable, get better grades, and become more successful in almost every area. In addition, they are less prone to substance abuse, are less violent, and have fewer psychological problems.

5) Ensure Your Kids Get Enough Sleep

Building healthy sleep patterns is essential for toddlers and young children; it plays a major role in their mental and physical development, along with regulating their mood, and significantly decreasing irritable and hyperactive behavior.

Sleep expert and author Dr. Mark Weissbluth says,“Sleep is the power source that keeps your mind alert and calm,” which means that a good night’s sleep allows children (and their parents) to reach their full potential the next day. 

While, on the other hand, insufficient sleep makes children more prone to mood disorders, anxiety, and depression.

6) Promote a Healthy Lifestyle

Parents should also encourage exercise as it affects several areas of the brain; improving mood, memory, and attention as well as altering a person’s personality. Exercise naturally removes toxins from the body, leading to a generally better state of mental health. 

Moreover, active kids often have more joyful upbringings, resulting in becoming more sensible individuals who can connect with their peers easily, and enjoy social presence more.

four children raising up a banner at the middle of a busy street during day time - Happy Kids
Photo by Nicole Adams

7) Allow Children to Make Their Own Decisions

As the saying goes, “Wisdom comes from experience, and experience comes from making bad decisions.” Children will only learn and grow by making decisions on their own.

Allow your children to make small decisions from a young age, even if they start off as simple as asking them to choose whether they want to snack on carrots or cucumbers.

Children that start making their own decisions from a young age start to set their own expectations, learn how to self-regulate more efficiently, and become more confident and independent. Children are strong-headed and, as they grow, they should have the freedom to make more decisions on their own.

A parent cannot always get what they want with control; force creates resistance. The desired decision/rule must be met through autonomy, which is built by great relationships and allows parents to leverage trust, as well as build massive influence. 

8) Focus on The Process NOT The Result

Praise your children’s efforts, not their natural ability! 

Constantly pushing children to achieve high standards definitely affects them negatively, oftentimes making them more prone to higher levels of depression, anxiety, and substance abuse in comparison to other kids. 

Enjoy the process with your kids. Spend quality time together. Focus on building their skills, not just on having them perfect a given task. 

In conclusion, being a good parent does not rely solely on your ability to provide the necessary funding for your children, but more about helping them truly grow into the person they were meant to, and want to, be. Stop preparing the road for their children, and instead prepare their children for the road.

Make sure to join our conversation around mental health on the EMPWR Facebook Community Group: “The Empower Community”

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