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6 Tips for Raising Joyful Children

Most parents want their children to be happy, however we may experience bickering, demanding, and self-centered behaviors from our children. Here are 6 tips for raising children that are joyful.

1. Have a zero-tolerance policy for physical or mental meanness.

Sibling bullying can cause both mental and physical illness. A 2013 pediatric research study found that kids who experience sibling aggressive behavior have a higher rate of mental illness. We sometimes watch rough housing between our kids and think "Kids will be kids!" An angry little slap or push between siblings is still an assault. This behavior is illegal outside the home and it shouldn't be unacceptable inside the home. Our children need to feel physically and emotionally safe to thrive.

Verbal meanness is considered bullying in most schools. Kids should have consequences at home for being mean to one another. A sincere apology and an invitation to "make up" their actions will encourage appropriate behavior. For example, a child who has hit another, may want to offer to do their chore as a "make up". A child that has said something mean may want to tell their sibling 3 things they love about them.

2. Give gifts that are experiential.

When we give our children too much stuff, they begin to equate having stuff with their happiness. We all know where this leads! Instead, decide to give them gifts that build relationship, not materialism. Get them a ticket to a science museum, a trampoline, or a kayaking trip.

I was at a 3 year-old's birthday party. She was given toy after toy. The toys had many "bells and whistles". She opened on gift that contained a stuff animal. After pushing several parts of the animals anatomy, she looked at her mother and asked, "Mommy, what does this do?" Mom said, "Nothing honey, you play with it." The little girl quickly dismissed the toy and went on to something more entertaining. When we give to many gifts that entertain, we alter the child's ability to entertain themselves. Children who don't learn how to entertain themselves, flit from one thing to another looking for entertainment.

3. Minimize screen time.

Many studies have shown that too much screen time can inhibit a child's ability to focus and be social. At a social event, I watched several children complain to their parents that they were bored and wanted to play with their parent's phone.

Our children are too young to resist and understand all the age targeted marketing. All this media makes our children want more and more of what they feel they don't have, making them dissatisfied and demanding children.

3. Give them chores.

When children don't have chores, they don't understand what it takes to run a household. They learn to be entitled and unappreciative of what we do for them. If your child does not have time during the week, have chore time during the weekend. Make sure that some of their chores benefits the entire family instead of simply cleaning their own room. We are happier people when we feel our contribution is valuable to others.

4. Teach them happiness is an inside job.

Family members frequently scream, "You're making me angry!" or "You are driving me crazy!" Children need to be taught at an early age that no one can make them feel anything. They chose what they want to feel. I frequently said to my children, "I understand that you are angry. I would probably be angry too. How long do you want to feel angry?" or "What could you do to make yourself feel better?"

Parents frequently complain to me that their child says, "I'm bored!" Many parents somehow feel that it is their job to make their child happy. It's not! It is your job to teach your child how to make themselves happy.

5. Teach them gratitude.

Gratitude is one of the easiest antidotes for unhappiness. Model and teach your children to think of and/or write ten things they are grateful for and stand back and watch their attitude transform.

6. Create "encouragement feasts".

One special way to start dinner time is to do an encouragement feast. One person goes first, called the 'it' person. Everyone says one thing they love about the 'it' person. Then the 'it' person says one thing they love about them-self and then chooses the next 'it' person until everyone has had a turn. This is a great game to play when things are tense in your family. It quickly changes the atmosphere from stress to appreciation for one another. It helps your child feel loved, wanted, and valued. This game helps everyone to be feel joyful.

Parents, you have an opportunity to transform negativity in your family to joy. This is a gift for your children that they will experience for a lifetime.

Parenting Practice: This week, help your child recognize that happiness is an inside job.



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Kathryn Kvols

Author, Lecturer, Parenting Coach

(352) 494-1581

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