Everyone wants their family to be happy, but so much can get in the way, whether it’s work stress, commitments or our children’s challenging behaviour. The good news is that you CAN adopt habits that will strengthen your family.
So, here are Dr Justin’s top ten parenting tips on how to make your family happier, starting today :-).
It’s tempting to talk at our children. Parents do it a lot. But we rarely talk with them. What our children need most is our listening, understanding, our support and our love. That way, when they’re ready, they’ll seek our guidance voluntarily. Hugs help more than lectures – and they make our family happier.
Often our expectations of our children are greater than their developmental ability. We assume that because they are walking and talking, they are capable of so much more. When they fall short, we feel frustrated. When our expectations and experience do not align, the result is disappointment. It’s not unfair to lower our expectations and allow our children to be young, because when the pressure is off all of us, family life becomes easier and happier.
When our children misbehave, we often turn to punishment as our first mode of response. While it’s absolutely necessary and important that we teach our children the right way to behave, executing that teaching via punishment is not just ineffective, but also harmful. The essence of good discipline is teaching, instructing and guiding. If something frustrates you, instead of yelling or punishing your children, try working with them to problem-solve positive solutions.
Although it may save more time to give our children all the answers, ultimately this quick-fix approach fails to teach self-reliance, resilience or resourcefulness. Wise parents work with their children, providing scaffolding as they learn, discover and experiment to figure out ways to solve their problems and find answers to their questions.
When parents become fixated on their children’s challenging behaviour it soon becomes their only focus. But when parents focus on their children’s positives: their strengths, their potential for excellence and other desirable qualities, they begin to see their children in a new light. You get what you focus on, so focus on what you love about your family and your family will feel more loved – and love you more.
Yelling is a common reaction for parents to illustrate their frustration towards their children. But screaming at children does nothing to build relationships, love or kindness. (And children aren’t deaf.) Alternatively, speak softly (with a smile) while looking into their eyes, and gain their attention by holding their hand, this way we create closeness and warmth in our family.
It’s normal to want to control children – and society expects us to. But too much control invites conflict and resistance. Research shows that allowing children to have a choice leads to better outcomes – in peers, school accomplishment, decisions around alcohol and other drugs, and even technology use. There still need to be boundaries, but those boundaries are determined through conversations, working with our children to help them determine for themselves how they should act, with our involvement and adult wisdom helping them make good decisions. Allowing choice makes families happier.
Reading to our children benefits them in so many ways, and it benefits our relationship with them. Start early by reading to them as infants and into their toddler years, as well as the school years and, if they’ll let you, read to your teens too! Dads in particular can have a significant influence on their children’s wellbeing just by reading them stories each day. Story time makes families happy.
While it would be wonderful to have children who are well-rounded achievers, cramming too much in leads to stressed-out parents and tired, over-worked children. Instead, let children explore, play, discover and create, without a crazy timetable dictating their every move. You’ll feel better, and so will they.
Perhaps the easiest thing we can do to make our families happy is to spend time together. Happy families are built on great relationships, and relationships take time and investment. Our children need to know we care about them and that we are always there for them, to listen, guide and support, but also to play, laugh and cuddle.