Seven super simple tips to raise happy kids.
Parenting: Age 11-12 Pre-Teen
Parenting: Age 13-18 Teen
Parenting: Age 2-5 Toddler
Parenting: Age 5-11 School Age
Parenting: Life Lessons
Parenting: Tips & Tricks
1: Find Your Own Happiness
Don't expect to raise happy kids if you're not happy yourself or if your home isn't a happy place. Happiness starts with the parents and home and needs to become a lifestyle. Kids of all ages pick up on stress levels and other problems in the home so getting things figured out is the key to raising happier children.
2: Family Time
Spending real, quality time as a family is important for children even if your family is just you and your child. Go play outside together with a ball or frisbee. Go on a hike. Swim in a pool. Or even just stay in and play a board game each night. For ideas, see Best Board Games For Family Game Night.
3: School Shouldn't Be A Job
Are you giving kids the impression that school work and grades are more important than they truly are? Especially in younger kids, school shouldn't be made out to be such a big deal. Learning and gaining education is always important but the way schools work today make it feel like all that matters are grades.
Kids learn in different ways and need freedom to explore and learn at their own pace, in their own ways. Schools are incredibly rigid and tend to stifle creativity and learning for many kids. Schools love to give kids homework after school and over breaks. What does that teach kids? That taking their work home with them is okay. That's a terrible habit to pick up as they go out and get careers later in life.
Skipping homework isn't an option but try talking with the school to lessen homework. If a teacher is doing their job properly, virtually no homework should ever be needed. Teachers will argue that point and blame programs like "No Kid Left Behind" but it's still a fact. Gather up parents and confront the schools on this topic. Or try a private school or home schooling, see Home Schooling - Where To Start.
4: Raise Entrepreneurs
The biggest thing schools get wrong is the idea that you need a formal education. What's worse, is that they teach you that you need a college education. This simply isn't true. Plenty of careers may require a college degree, many more do not. We've covered this in more detail in Is College Really Necessary Today? and Trade School Versus College.
The bottom line is that higher education is a newer concept in human history. Years ago people created businesses that sold products and service but today we simply work for somebody else. Wanting to be an entrepreneur today is almost frowned up. Instead, raise thinkers and makers and encourage entrepreneurial skills in your child rather than simply pushing more schooling to get a better paying job "working for the man" that won't truly make them happy.
5: Eat Right
Happiness can be found regardless of your physical and mental condition, but being healthy certainly makes things a lot easier. Being fat and unhealthy often makes finding happiness difficult for many people. So teach your children how to eat right from a young age. That doesn't mean you have to go replace all of the cheddar with Vegan Cheese, but they need to understand balance and portion control.
Get them started on fruits and vegetables or some Healthy Foods That Are Not Vegetables. Avoid the processed garbage that is all over the place, including fast food. Reward them for eating a salad for lunch (like Matt's Miracle Salad Recipe) instead of a burger and fries and truly explain why we are what we eat. Of course, you need to eat right as well so you're leading by example. To do that read A Healthy Lifestyle - Where Do You Start?, An Alternative To Dieting, Are Processed Foods Bad For Your Health?, and Top 8 Health Benefits Of Water to get started.
6: Let Them Get Hurt
That doesn't mean you need to purposely let them go and get hurt. Instead, stop hovering and watching their every move. Sure, make sure they're in a safe environment (the world is often a scary place these days) but then let them do their thing. They might fall and get hurt or scraped. It happens, it's part of growing up.
If you safeguard everything your child does and touches now then what happens down the road when you're not there to protect them? They'll get hurt! Teach them about safety. Explain and show them why knives are sharp and why ovens are hot. But simply telling them not to touch the knife or only letting them eat with a spoon isn't the solution. In other parts of the world you'll find kids that are just a few years old hunting and fishing or working a family farm. It's because they were taught how to do things while being safe at a young age.
7: Redefine Happiness
The biggest lesson of all is to truly figure out what happiness is. Too many think it's that ubiquitous American Dream everyone likes to chase. Become smart, get a high paying job, buy a fancy house and cars, vacation in exotic places, have some kids, and you'll find happiness. For most people, even if they achieve that dream they won't find happiness. All that line of thinking does is teach us to keep wanting more. More of everything.
Instead, redefine what it is to truly be happy. Teach your kids that happiness is found everywhere they look. Often the simpler the life is, the happier it is as well. Even quitting social media (them and you) can help make you happier (see Top Reasons To Quit Facebook Now) as sites like that skew what real life actually is. They don't have to grow up to doctors and rocket scientists with big paychecks to find happiness. They certainly can't buy happiness so acquiring needless products isn't the solution either. Slow down and take life in so they can truly see what happiness is and isn't. Along the way you'll discover happiness too, just like we mentioned at the top of this article!
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