Amongst all of the gadgetry, wizardry, screens and shiny things that make up a childhood in the 21st century there is the actual child, actually experiencing their childhood.
Rather than try to come up with one more device/task/class/group/whatever to show kids how much fun their childhood should be, we’re going to get back to basics and give you ten (scientifically proven!) tips to help your kids actually enjoy that childhood.
1. Give them time to play.
Playtime, from very early on in infancy through adolescence, is essential to the development of a happy child. The development of social skills and lifelong friendships all start with going to play. Play boosts their creativity and gives them dreams to enjoy. No to mention wears them out so they sleep well at night. Feel free to tell your kids to get out and play.
2. Negative emotions have utility.
A lot of kids grow up thinking that being angry or sad or upset or distressed is “wrong” somehow and being happy all the time is “right”. What kids need to understand is that there are no right or wrong feelings and that all feelings have utility. Teaching a kid that being angry is okay can be hard, but it les you help them develop constructive ways to deal with their angry and other not-so-fun feelings.
3. Don’t compare them to others.
We know, we know, it’s hard to not compare your kids to other kids. It is especially hard when other parents do it. But don’t. Kids are going to get competitive enough among themselves without any help from you, and they should. They don’t need your -or anyone else’s- judgment clouding that experience.
4. Acknowledge their efforts.
This seems obvious: tell a kid they did a good job when they did, right? But kids are learning to parse their efforts according to where they want their benefits, so if you see them working extra-hard for something or to learn a new skill, lavish some extra praise on them. It makes the benefits even more enjoyable.
5. Let them take chances.
An overparented kid is usually socially unhealthy and unable to express any independence. Kids are going to have to know how to do life on life’s terms on their own someday, and keeping them close and guarded isn’t going to help them do that. Let your kids take chances, experience the (positive and negative) outcomes, pick themselves up, dust themselves off and try again.
6. Be happy!
Children learn the most from the adults who are raising them, so model happiness and comfort and joy and peace and safety and whatever else you want them to understand that you value. If you’re negative and cranky all the time they’re going to think they should be negative and cranky. Who wants that?
7. Give them a sense of responsibility for themselves.
Starting fairly early, kids can do small chores around the house, help or share things between people, and be praised for it. Later on this may turn into a small allowance and then a bank account. Kids love to be helpful and if doing so increases their self-sufficiency, all the better.
8. Take arguments and heavy conversations elsewhere.
Kids need to learn how to be kids…they have the rest of their lives to learn how to be adults. Do them a favor and keep the high-stress stuff out in the yard, in another room, wherever but somewhere else. The kids will sense your worry/anxiety/stress anyway; you don’t need to involve them in it.
9. Show family values
Demonstrate to your kids that family matters by doing activities together, going out for special occasions, taking trips to see other family members who live in other parts of the world, etc. Family is important, and children can learn this by seeing your behavior.
10. Create happy memories.
Studies have shown that people who remember their childhoods with warmth and happiness are more likely to be happy, healthy and generous with their time and resources as adults. Making happy memories as a kid makes a HUGE difference in the kind of adults they turn out to be.
What do you think of this list? Are there any items you disagree with or think should be added? Let us know in the comments!