It’s no secret, that when your kids are happy you are happy. I hear this in therapy all the time, ‘I just want my kids to be happy.’ Your kids can be happy, but you can’t expect them to be happy all the time. As human beings we have a variety of feelings: anger, sadness and happiness to name a few. One of the first steps is letting your kids know they don’t have to be happy all the time, and give them permission to express other emotions.

Children learn by example. If you only show happiness to your child then they will think they need to be happy all the time. It’s alright to express other feelings to your children or around your children. A lot of mother’s out there will say things like, ‘Your father will not hear about this, we don’t want to upset him.’ What message are you sending your child when you say that? The message is that dad must be happy all the time, that is a lot of pressure for everyone. When dad comes home fill him in on the day, whether it’s good or bad.

Here are five tips that will make you a better listener with you kids:

  1. Get happy yourself. As a parent it’s easy to want to please your children and make them happy. You may feel that is primarily your responsibility. Kids can pick up on your emotions, through your tone and body language. Also, by what you say about yourself and others. Do you put yourself down a lot? By saying things like, ‘I need plastic surgery or I’m too fat.’ Children will internalize your words and start to feel bad about themselves. They will say they are fat or ugly. If you find you can’t stop doing this, then it’s time to seek help. Make sure you set aside some time for yourself each day. Even if it’s only 10 minutes, it will make a big difference. Spend time with friends, go to a yoga class or watch a comedy.
  2. Stop expecting perfection. Not only from your kids, but from yourself. We want our children to have and do all the things we never did. You may have good intentions, but this can come across as wanting your child to be perfect. It’s alright for your child to make mistakes and it’s alright for you to make mistakes. The best way to make up is simply say, ‘yes I did that and I’m sorry.’ This is one of the most difficult things to say, but one of the best things you can do for your relationship with your kids. We’ve all been around someone that expects perfection all the time, and it’s emotionally draining.
  3. Teach self-discipline. We’ve all been in the grocery store, where that kid won’t stop screaming. If this has happened to you as a parent, it’s alright. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad parent. Next time try offering your kid an alternative, like look at that magazine or I can’t wait until we get home and you can watch your favorite cartoon. We all remember the marshmallow test, 75% of the children were able to wait the full 15 minutes when the reward was covered up. The reward being the second marshmallow. None of the kids were able to wait when the reward was not covered up. Kids who are better able to resist temptation, go on to live happier lives. So, start teaching them now.
  4. Form good habits (a.k.a happiness habits). Take it one step at a time and keep it simple in the beginning. Play with the family pet, go for a walk in the sunshine or take a bubble bath. There are many more, start with some that you know your kids like. It’s easy to say there is not enough time, but when you start to schedule it in your day, you’ll wonder how you ever made it through the day without it. Make sure you have happy time on the calendar for the family. You can schedule a hike, a special dinner or a weekend get away to your favorite family spot. Talk about it with your family and let them know you are looking forward to it. Take pictures and put a few on the fridge to remind you of your happy time together.
  5. Set the tone for happiness. We are all influenced by our environment, even if we don’t want to admit it. Just as a bad attitude is contagious, so is a good attitude. This starts with you. Remember, your children are always watching and listening to you. This is how they learn. Make sure the T.V. shows they are watching are appropriate. Put on some positive and inspirational music in the morning. Instead of hating the morning, embrace the morning. Talk about the things you are looking forward to in the day. Let your children know how much you love them. This is not spoiling the child, this will actually help your child’s self-esteem.

Parenting doesn’t come with directions. It’s alright to make mistakes and it’s alright to ask for help. We all need it now and then. The more you ask for help, the more you will find you aren’t alone. There are many highs and lows in parenting, learn to ride with it. Make sure to enjoy the good times and learn from the bad times. For more help please call or email, (650) 892-0357,

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