When you ask parents what they want for their children, what are the most common replies? They want their children to be smart and happy, of course.
From what we’ve studied, the education and well-being of their children is more important to parents than just about anything else — health care, cost of living, public safety, and even their own well-being. And believe it or not, most non-parents also say they’re concerned about the well-being and intellectual growth of society’s youth; this concern seems to cut cleanly across gender, ethnicity, age, income and political affiliation.
Here’s what our extensive research tells us:
1. Walk the talk — always set a great example.
It’s not what you say, it’s how you live your life every day. Don’t tell your children how to live; LIVE and let them watch you. Practice what you preach or don’t preach at all. Walk the talk. Your children look up to you and they will emulate your actions and strive to become who you are.
So BE who you want them to be.
2. Reduce YOUR stress, and thus the stress level in the household.
Not easy, I know, but believe it or not what children want from their parents more than anything else is for them to be happier and less stressed.
In a survey of a thousand families discussed in the book The Secrets of Happy Families, a researcher asked children, “If you were granted one wish about your parents, what would it be?” Most parents predicted their children would say something about spending more time with them. But in fact their number one wish was that their parents were less tired and less stressed.
3. Believe in your children.
The greatest compliment you can give to a child is to believe in them and let them know you care. When you see something true, good and beautiful in them, don’t hesitate to express your admiration. When you see something that is not true, good and beautiful in them, don’t neglect to give them your wholehearted assistance and guidance.
The simple act of believing that your child is capable and worthy makes a big difference.
4. Praise your children for their effort, not their intelligence.
Based on the point above, this might sound a bit counterintuitive, but when you praise a child’s efforts you are bringing attention to something they can easily control — the amount of effort they put in. This is immensely important because it teaches them to persist, and that personal growth through hard work is possible.
Careful not to over-praise your children for no reason. Make sure your gestures of praise are warranted. Because if the praise stops, the effort stops too. And that’s not good because it means they won’t be able to perform well when you’re not around.
5. Don’t read TO your children, read WITH them.
Got a youngster who’s learning to read? Don’t let them just stare at the pictures in a book while you do all the work by reading every word to them. Instead, call attention to the words. Point to them. Point to the pictures that illustrate them.
6. Eat dinner together as a family.
Eating dinner together makes a difference. According to The Secrets of Happy Families, children who have dinner with their families do better across pretty much every conceivable metric. “A recent wave of research shows that children who eat dinner with their families are less likely to drink, smoke, do drugs, get pregnant, become depressed, and develop eating disorders.”
Even if eating dinner together every night isn’t possible, you should make it a point to eat together as a family at least once a week.
7. Create logical, reasonable rules and boundaries for your children.
Children don’t do well in a free-for-all environment. It’s a myth that being too strict guarantees rebellion and being permissive drives better behavior. From the research we’ve done, it’s clear that children who go crazy and get in trouble mostly have parents who don’t set reasonable rules and boundaries. If their parents are loving and accepting no matter what they do — even when they are unruly — children take their parent’s lack of rules as a sign that they don’t really care about them — that they don’t really want the job of being parents in the first place.
On the flip side, parents who are consistent in enforcing rules and boundaries are often the same parents who become the closest with their children. According to a Penn State study by Dr. Nancy Darling and Dr. Linda Caldwell, parents that set logical rules pertaining to key principles of influence, and explain why the rules are there, engage more closely with the children and ultimately have a happier, healthier relationship with them.
8. Give your children opportunities to make healthy peer relationships.
The peer group your children associate with has an enormous effect on their long-term happiness and educational aspirations. As parents, we sometimes only talk to our children about peer pressure when it’s negative, but more often than not, it’s positive. Living in a nice child-friendly neighborhood, going to highly rated schools, and making sure your children associate with the right peers can make a world of difference.
Bottom line: As a human being, you are the average of the people you spend the most time with. And that’s why it’s not always where you are in life, but who you have by your side that matters most. The same is true for your children.
9. Make sure your children get enough sleep every night.
A tired mind is rarely constructive or content. And it’s even worse for children than it is for adults. There’s also a direct correlation between good grades and the average amount of sleep a child gets. Teens who received A’s average about fifteen more minutes of sleep than B students, who in turn average fifteen more minutes than C’s, and so on. The data from NurtureShock was almost an exact replication of results from an earlier study of over 3,000 high schoolers that’s referenced in the book. Certainly, these are averages, but the consistency of the two studies stands out. For children, every fifteen minutes of sleep counts.
10. Help your children maintain a gratitude journal.
Again, via the NurtureShock: “In one celebrated example, Dr. Robert Emmons, of the University of California at Davis, asked teenage students to keep a gratitude journal — over ten weeks, the young undergrads listed five things that had happened in the last week which they were thankful for. The results were surprisingly powerful — the students who kept the gratitude journal were 25% happier, were more optimistic about the future, and got sick less often during the controlled trial. They even got more exercise.”
Bottom line: Children who keep a gratitude journal are happier, more optimistic, and healthier. As soon as your child is old enough, help them start one.
Original Post | Marcandangel