Serving Kids are Happy Kids

My one year old recently threw her first real tantrum. We were leaving the park and she came unglued. It took me by surprise at first as I hadn't expected those to start quite yet. She is still my precious, perfect baby! Of course, I did my best to deal with it in the moment and remembered again that parenting is hard work!

Browsing the internet one day, I came across Christine Carter, PhD. She is a happiness expert at UC Berkeley. In her videos, she teaches parents how happiness is a learned skill that children can be taught. When my daughter is throwing a fit, I often forget that it can be a teaching moment as we learn how to be happy as a family. She is young and as her parent, I need to help her develop that skill. 

Carter gives ten tips for raising happy kids. I'm going to go through each of them and share my thoughts:

  1. Express gratitude every day
    1. Thank you notes have always been important to my family. My grandma taught my mom to write them and she taught me to write them. I'm working on teaching my kids the importance of them as well. Read about when Ivory learned to write a thank you note here.
  2. Spend one on one time with your child
    1. I know we have busy schedules and that one on one time can be hard even though it is important. Be sure to check out our simple service ideas as they are great ideas for things you can do with your children one on one. I especially like the idea to write a love letter to a stranger.
  3. Create opportunities for your child to help other children
    1. This is really what Little Hands Can is about! Read our philosophy here or look for an event you can come to here!
  4. Ask your children to come up with their own solutions to their problems
    1. This is a challenge at our house. I think every day Ruby comes up to me to tell me something Ivory did that she didn't like and I have to remind her to talk to Ivory about it first. I'd love some ideas for how to do this more effectively. What do you do in your house?
  5. Make sure your children know your love for them is not contingent on their performance or achievement
    1. A few months back I read a (somewhat controversial) article on this very issue. I found the article helpful in terms of teaching me about loving unconditionally and how to make sure my kids know that I have unconditional love for them. Check it out here.
  6. Identify daily stress points
    1. Carter encourages parents to change routines when there is constant stress in a specific situation. It's a good reminder to regularly evaluate how time is spent so that both parents and children can enjoy their time together.
  7. Encourage competency
    1. I often forget how much my kids are capable of doing. Be sure to read Mandi's take on encouraging serving in the home through regular chores here.
  8. Self confidence is a learned behavior
    1. Carter advises that we give our children "examples of reassuring thoughts so [they] can replace the critical ones." I find my four year old gets frustrated sometimes when things don't turn out how she wanted them to. I need to help her have those reassuring thoughts.
  9. Model perseverance
    1. Since the day I blogged about cleaning up the trail we hiked on, the girls and I have enjoyed continuing this practice. I've noticed that as I continue to pick up trash, they both do as well. Though this is a very simple task, I hope the lessons they learn about perseverance will stick with them.
  10. Talk with your children about difficult topics
    1. Ruby asks questions. It comes with the territory of being four years old. I've noticed that while doing these Little Hands Can simple service activities with her, discussions have come up. You can read about when we talked about the homeless here.

There's no doubt that parenting is hard and helping kids learn to be happy is daunting. I am glad, however, that according to Carter, I may be on the right track.

What tips do you have? How have you taught your kids about happiness?

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