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Raising children isn’t easy, however, there are ways to make your job easier and raise your children to not only be happy but to thrive.

No parent wants to raise an unhappy child that is unsuccessful in life. For the most part, we all want our children to be happy. And while admittedly being a parent is the hardest job on the planet, science tells us there are small things that we can do that will make the experience much easier on both parent and child. Here are 12 research-based ways to raise happier kids.

1. Be happy yourself.

The art of raising happy children starts with you. Time and time again, research shows us that for your children to be happy and to thrive that they must see you doing just that. When parents are depressed and upset constantly, so are their children. And while many would chalk that up to genetics- it is more than that.

2. Encourage healthy eating.

Our diet has a lot to do with our overall health, which is undeniable. Children need all of the important nutrients and macro-nutrients. Without them, their minds won’t be healthy and in turn, their happiness will suffer.

3. Ensure they get proper rest.

During childhood, kids grow fast. To restore and revive itself, the body needs proper rest. Check with your pediatrician about the correct sleeping patterns for your child’s age group as this will vary during each stage.

4. Exercise is important.

According to the CDC and American Heart Association, children need at least 60 minutes of exercise daily. Physical activity builds strength, endurance and keeps the vital organs functioning properly. And exercise and mental health are tied together intrinsically.

5. Expect effort, not perfection.

In an article featured by Time magazine about research-based parenting habits that make children mentally healthier and happier, it says

“Note to perfectionist helicopter parents and Tiger Moms: cool it.

Relentlessly banging the achievement drum messes kids up.

Parents who overemphasize achievement are more likely to have kids with high levels of depression, anxiety, and substance abuse compared to other kids.

The research is very consistent: Praise effort, not natural ability.”

This is so true! Praising kids on how hard they work for something versus telling them they are naturally gifted can make a fundamental difference in their mentality.

6. Validate their emotions.

As natural as it may seem to say “It is going to be fine, stop worrying,” when your kids are upset, DO NOT. When you do so, you invalidate their emotions rather than empathizing with them. In turn, they will feel like having emotions is wrong and throughout their lives, they will be unsure of how to process them, which can spell big trouble down the road.

7. Spend quality time together.

Children need quality time with their parents to thrive. Even if they don’t act like that is what they want (when they are older,) they need it. You are their teacher and the person responsible for how they handle the real world. To teach them, you need quality time.

8. Limit screen time.

Smartphones, tablets, television, and computers have become too large of a part of kids’ lives. Research had shown that too much screen time can overstimulate kids and mess with the way they form connections in their brains. It can cause mental distress, and forms of mental illness. At the very least- it sets them up for addiction down the road, because screens trigger the same chemicals that addictive drugs like heroin and meth do.

9. Read to them.

Kids learn through interaction, play, and reading, and education. Part of their education and helping them to grow their vocabulary and increase imagination is reading to them. It sets them up for success and builds their attention.

10. Form happiness habits.

Happiness habits are good habits that are forms of self-care. To teach these, you need to live by them as well. Limit family screen time, exercise together, explore creative activities, read together, and eat healthy meals together.

11. Teach self-discipline.

When I was a child, and my mother encouraged me to do things, even when I didn’t want to, I would become so frustrated with her. But, looking back, now, I have strong self-discipline about myself, compared to others that were never taught discipline.

12. Provide a happy and healthy environment.

Much of our personality and mindset come from the environments we are in. So, providing a happy, low-stress environment for your kids is completely fundamental to their overall well-being. Time suggests that to do this, control over a child’s surroundings is a must. And to achieve that, they say less Television is the way to go. Research shows that the less television we watch, the better our overall mental health will be. So, cut out television and create a truly happy environment for kids.