By: Nina Malanay
The moment we become parents, our lives dramatically change. From birth, we make sure that our kids will have the best life possible — to have limitless opportunities, to be able to follow their dreams, and to be happy and successful, more than anything else.
And for good reason, because various studies have shown that being happy gives a substantial advantage in life. Generally, children who had positive experiences in childhood are more likely to grow up as successful adults. They hold more prestigious jobs, earn higher salaries and are more satisfied with their relationships. And what parent would not want that for their children?
So how can parents give their kids a nurturing environment where they can feel loved, emotionally-secure, and free to explore and have fun? We’ll let you in on the secrets of parents who are raising happy and successful kids.
1. They are happy themselves.
Happy parents are more likely to have happy children. Extensive research has linked parental depression as a likely cause of behavioral problems in kids. It also makes parenting less effective. And while you can’t control your child’s happiness, you can be responsible for yours. Embrace positivity and strive to maintain an optimistic outlook. One of the best things you can do for your child’s well-being is to attend to your own. Create time for yourself and do things that make YOU happy. Your children want you to be happy, just as much as you want them to be happy.
2. They build a meaningful relationship with their kids.
“A connected childhood is the key to happiness,” says Dr. Edward Hallowell, a child psychiatrist and the author of The Childhood Roots of Adult Happiness. When children feel connected, they feel loved, understood, wanted and acknowledged, providing them with a “safe base” to explore the world. Feelings of connectedness promote your child’s emotional well-being that can result in long-term benefits, including healthier relationships and greater academic achievement. So hold your baby often, respond to his needs with empathy, read, play and eat together, go out on one-on-one dates and nurture a deep, connected relationship with your child. Remember that it’s not enough to feel a deep love for your child; they must feel it too.
3. They provide opportunities for their child to form connections with others as well.
Parents who have happy and successful kids also encourage their children to form meaningful connections with others. This not only builds essential people skills; research shows that it also makes them happier and more successful adults. Socially-competent children who could forge meaningful friendships, be helpful to others, recognize and regulate their feelings, and resolve conflicts on their own, are more likely to be successful in their respective careers and have rewarding relationships.
4. They praise effort, not natural ability or performance.
Parents who offer praise for their children’s effort and hard work instead of the achievement itself have children who actually enjoy the challenging activities they engage in, and consequently, achieve more. When we praise children for the effort, the creativity, or the persistence that goes into achieving, they develop a growth mindset – a thinking that they want to keep trying more and engage in an activity more, not because they want to achieve more per se, but because they want to learn and grow more. Praising specific traits can distract a child as he focuses more trying to hold himself up to that standard. They tend to withdraw or hesitate to take on more challenging tasks and become concerned about what people will think and feel toward them of them if they fail.
5. They allow their kids to make mistakes and fail.
Many parents make the mistake of doing too much for their kids. While it can be difficult to watch our kids struggle, they will not learn unless we allow them to make mistakes and risk failure. The challenge, then, for parents is to stand back and provide ample opportunities to learn new skills, and if need be, to make mistakes along the way. Only then can they develop a can-do attitude that allows them to approach future challenges with positivity and enthusiasm which are important to having a happy life.
6. They hold high expectations for their kids.
Parents who set high expectations of their children have children who are more likely to achieve more and attain more in life. Called the Pygmalion Effect, the expectations one person has of another can come to serve as a self-fulfilling prophecy. Kids usually want to please their parents and try to live up to their parents’ expectations. If parents set a high bar for behavior and achievement, and provide a loving and supportive environment, children will strive to reach for that standard. On the contrary, if the parents don’t set a standard for their children, their kids will not be motivated, nor find a reason to strive and achieve.
7. They allow their kids to play and explore.
Kids today spend less time engaging in active play. In fact, researchers believe that the less time kids spend engaging in unstructured play is partly the responsible for slowing children’s cognitive and emotional development. Studies have proven time and again that unstructured play promotes physical, cognitive and socio-emotional development. It helps children learn how to communicate, cooperate, negotiate, resolve conflicts and regulate their feelings and behavior – skills that are necessary as they navigate the world.
8. They expect their kids to do chores.
Parents who make their children take part in doing chores raise children who realize and value the work needed to be done as part of everyday life. They become independent, learn how to collaborate with others, and develop strong work ethics. They become aware of and take pride in their contribution to the home, which in turn, develops self-esteem and builds confidence.
9. They prioritize their marriage over their children.
It may seem counter intuitive, but parents who prioritize their marriage over their children raise kids who are emotionally secure. Emotionally secure kids are more able to explore the world and try out new things, and thus, have more chances to achieve more. Having a happy and fulfilling marriage makes better parents – positive emotions like love, security and happiness, and the support from our partner – can make us warmer and more responsive as a parent. Kids can also pick up on these positive emotions and examples, and these become the standard upon which they will hold their future relationships against.
For most parents, raising happy and successful children is the greatest affirmation of parenting success. As parents, we have the opportunity to lay the groundwork, teach the right mindset and equip our kids with the tools for success so they can grow up to be happy, successful kids who will turn out to be solid, well-adjusted adults.
Nina Malanay is a mother to two rambunctious, affectionate boys, aged 7 and 4. Her husband-slash-best friend died in a tragic bombing incident in 2013. As she tries to navigate through life with her boys as a solo parent, she hopes to rediscover herself beyond the many hats she wears – mother, teacher, writer, baking enthusiast, student of life – and move boldly into her future.