Before starting college, I had some ideas about what I’d like to study, but it wasn’t until a couple years in that I found what I wanted to commit to: marriage and family studies. I knew that what I was learning could be applied to both my current and my future relationships, especially my future family. Growing up, I would say that I was generally a happy kid. I got along with my parents, I had good friends, did well in school, was involved in extracurricular activities and active in church. But if you had asked me then how I became that way–happy–I don’t know that I would have been able to nail it down. However, through my coursework, and now through practical application (aka parenting), I’ve seen three ways parents can raise happy kids: building connections, setting limits and encouraging independence.
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So often, I hear parents joke around that they wish their kids came with a manual. I’ve even said the same thing myself, especially when going through a challenging period of time. And while each child is different, I know that a combination of connecting, limits and autonomy will help my kids develop into happy, healthy kids.
Shortly after becoming pregnant with each of my kids, I felt a connection to them. My husband on the other hand, didn’t feel connected to them until they were born. But regardless of when you first feel connected to your kids, it’s important to recognize that each child has an innate need to feel connected, which causes them to feel loved. For example, my daughter has never been much of a snuggler. Even now, she’ll sit next to me or my husband when we are watching a show or reading a book, but she’s never wanted to really connect that way for longer than a few minutes. But, one on one time and words of encouragement and affirmation go a long way for her. She literally lights up.
On the other hand, my son is a big cuddle bug. He was more that way even as a baby and now loves to snuggle and hug and sit on our laps. Additionally, if you can get him talking or telling a story, he loves to feel listened to. When each child feels connected in the way that means the most to them, they feel loved. If you’re not sure how your child feels love, I highly recommend the book The Five Love Languages for Children by Gary Chapman.
A strong parent-child connection is important because it builds the foundation for lovingly correcting our kids (aka discipline). When we set limits, or rules, for our children we are teaching them self-control and establishing socially acceptable behavior. Right now, my daughter is struggling to remember that her first instinct when things don’t go her way should not be to hit. We are working with her to help her understand that there are other ways she can express her frustration, but that being physical is not acceptable. We are teaching her that she needs to think before she acts and to think about how others will feel if she hits them (the golden rule). As parents, it’s our role to be an example, follow through and maintain a strong connection with each of our kids. They will (hopefully) recognize that the rules are there because we love them and want them to be happy.
Kids seem to have a built-in program for using some variation of the phrase “I want to do it by myself!”. As they grow and learn more about their abilities, they want to test the limits we’ve put in place. While this can be extremely frustrating as a parent, it’s helpful to recognize that their desire for autonomy (independence) is actually very useful as it will prepare them for future real-world responsibilities, as well as teaching about choice and accountability. Obviously, we have to allow some degree of independence otherwise our children wouldn’t learn how to do anything for themselves. My kids are still fairly young, but I try my best to allow them the ability to choose wherever possible and within reason. For example, I will tell them what the weather will be like for the day and then allow them to choose their clothes. I ask them what kind of fruit or vegetable they’d like with their lunch (giving them options). Doing this helps my kids feel like I trust them to make their own decisions and gives them confidence in themselves. In addition, I have to make sure that when there is an unwanted consequence to a choice they made, that they take responsibility for it and learn from it.
Parenting is hard work. I was just telling my husband the other night, “It’s so hard to feel like I always have to be on top of everything all the time! There is so much to remember and so many things I need to teach them and it can be so exhausting.” But the moments of joy–when your child puts into practice a concept you’ve been working on or they do they right thing even when they think no one is watching or they start on their chores without being asked or a hug for no reason–really do make this whole parenting thing so rewarding.
As anyone who has been around kids can tell you, every kid comes with their own unique personality. I love finding fun shirts for my kids to wear and graphic tees are some of their favorites. When I saw these shirts from Cents of Style, I knew I had to grab a couple of them. For my daughter, I chose the “Boys are EW”, although the “I believe in Pink” would have been perfect for her too. My son is one of those funny, sweet, charming little boys and I got him a “Word to your Mother” shirt. (I’m sure my husband will teach him all the words to Vanilla Ice’s song one day.) My kids love their new shirts and I’m sure they’ll be wearing them for the rest of the summer.
Do your kids love wearing graphic tees? If so, this weekend is the perfect time to snag some for Cents of Style’s Fashion Friday deal. All their kids graphic tees are 50% off their lowest marked price, with clearance styles starting at less than $5! Sizes range from 6 months all the way up to Youth XL (14/16) so there is something fun for all ages. So go to Cents of Style, check out their kids shirts and then use the code KIDSTORY at checkout to take advantage of this deal, plus you’ll get free shipping! This deal runs from 6/16-6/18.
Have you seen these principles help you raise happy kids?