How to raise happy kids in 10 scientific steps
Below is an edited summary of Eric Barker’s excellent list written for TIME Magazine:
- Get happy yourself. How happy you are dramatically affects how happy and successful your kids are. So plan time each week to nurture your own relationships and hobbies.
- Teach kids to build relationships. Encourage them to invest in relationships and perform small acts of kindness to build empathy.
- Expect effort, not perfection. Banging the achievement drum messes kids up. The research is very consistent: praise effort, not natural ability.
- Teach optimism. Help preteens on identifying silver linings and looking on the bright side. Optimism is so closely related to happiness that the two are one in the same.
- Teach kids to identify feelings. For example, empathize, label, and validate their own feelings when faced with anger, frustration, sadness, or disappointment.
- Teach happy habits. Staying in the groove is easy once habits have been established. Help kids remove distracting or tempting stimuli from their lives, establish one attempted goal at a time, and reinforce the power of persistent effort.
- Teach self-discipline. Related to the above, help kids learn how to reward and distract themselves from short-term temptations. This is more predictive of success than anything else, research shows.
- Grant more playtime. This teaches kids how to enjoy the present and channel creativity.
- Rig their environment for happiness. That means less TV or “media time” which reinforce more passive “let things happen to me” behavior than active “I’m going to invest in things that are important to me.”
- Eat dinner together. This simple tradition increases access to parent teaching, molds younger minds, and ultimately makes them happier.