Teaching children true happiness seems like a pipe dream, doesn’t it? Like something you could have hoped for in decades past, but could never even come close to achieving in today’s world. The world is just plain mean. Cyber-bullying. Unrealistic body images. Toxic friendships. Young people today are targeted everywhere they turn. They are basically on a fast track to becoming depressed and anxious just by being human.
I should clarify: I am not a parenting expert. I don’t have some shiny plaque on the wall that says I graduated summa cum laude from Harvard with a degree in psychology or child development. I’ve only been a mom for nearly 4 years. But with one of my children’s birthdays in less than 10 days, I find myself reflecting on parenting in general. Especially reflecting on the kind of mom I am, and how they’re growing and learning.
This topic is especially weighty for me. I am a mom who fights a daily struggle with mental illness. I have it mostly under control, but it creeps just below the surface. Waiting for one bad tantrum or one past due bed time to come rushing out in waves of irritability and anxiety. I spend every day terrified that my children will become like me. But you know the good thing about that? It makes me more proactive than, possibly, an emotionally normal parent might be. It makes me constantly wonder what I could be doing better.
How I am fostering happiness and confidence
Like I said, not an expert. If you don’t want to take my word for it, the internet is a wonderful place. There is so much valuable information at the tips of your fingers. (My friend wrote an amazing blog post recently about common parenting mistakes we all fall prey to, and what you can do instead.) That being said, here are the little things I do DAILY to ensure my kids grow up happy and confident.
I tell them I love them multiple times a day.
This may not seem like a major thing, but for kids who struggle, just hearing that they are loved can make all the difference in the world.
I speak words of positivity to them.
I tell them often that I am proud of them, that I’m happy to be their mother, that they are brave, that they are sweet, that they are strong, and that they can do anything. This can literally impact how your child’s brain works, friends! (Click here to read more.)
I encourage them to love each other.
I truly believe that there are few relationships more precious than that of siblings. Every day, I tell my kids to be kind to each other, and hug each other after a fight, and say sorry when they say something hurtful. Happiness is having positive interpersonal relationships!
I respect their boundaries.
I’ll admit, it is so tempting to want to smooch those sweet little cheeks all day long. But I think it is important, no matter what gender your child is, to teach them the power of NO. If I go in for a hug or kiss and they say, No, I have to be respectful of that. There is no law that says that any physical contact is ever required of them. Part of happiness is learning how they want to be treated.
I take cues from them.
Kind of following up on my last point, I make it a point to never impose any sort of pre-conceived notion in their minds about what their life is supposed to be like. I understand that this is a very controversial topic, and it is always my goal to be respectful of other’s viewpoints. But I will tell you here: I do not (intentionally) impose stereotypical gender roles on them. I tell them they can do anything, and whether they are interested in cooking, sewing, makeup, cars, sports, video games… Any of that is okay. If they do not want to get married, that is okay. If they do not want to have children, that is okay. I am even learning to stop referring to them as often as “my daughters” or “my girls.” They are my kids. This may seem drastic, but it is important to me that they never feel trapped in any role or stage of life they might find themselves in.
These are just a few things I do that I truly believe will make a difference down the road in their happiness. At the end of the day, just WANTING to be a better parent is a great step to take. Pair that with knowledge and action, and you are definitely on the right track. I would love to hear some of your strategies in the comments! Feel free to share them below, or privately on my Contact page.