3 Ways To Raise Happy Kids

Sometimes I wish my kids came with a manual on how to raise them!  But thankfully these tried and true principles for ways to raise a happy kid are there as a guideline.

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.

Sometimes I wish my kids came with a manual on how to raise them!  But thankfully these tried and true principles for ways to raise a happy kid are there as a guideline.

Building Connections
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. 

Sometimes I wish my kids came with a manual on how to raise them!  But thankfully these tried and true principles for ways to raise a happy kid are there as a guideline.

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.

Sometimes I wish my kids came with a manual on how to raise them!  But thankfully these tried and true principles for ways to raise a happy kid are there as a guideline.

Setting Limits
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.

Sometimes I wish my kids came with a manual on how to raise them!  But thankfully these tried and true principles for ways to raise a happy kid are there as a guideline.

Encouraging Independence
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.

Sometimes I wish my kids came with a manual on how to raise them!  But thankfully these tried and true principles for ways to raise a happy kid are there as a guideline.

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. 

Sometimes I wish my kids came with a manual on how to raise them!  But thankfully these tried and true principles for ways to raise a happy kid are there as a guideline.

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.

Sometimes I wish my kids came with a manual on how to raise them!  But thankfully these tried and true principles for ways to raise a happy kid are there as a guideline.

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?

I Am A Broken Record

Parenting sometimes feels the same as a broken record--always repeating ourselves.  But who's learning more: our kids or us?

As parents, it’s our responsibility to teach our children right from wrong, up from down, left from right, true from false and the right way to put the toilet paper on the roll.  Our children come to us as these perfect little humans, completely dependent on us for their care.  We wash them, clothe them, feed them, change their diapers, wipe their face and hands, rescue them from sticking foreign objects in their mouth and the list goes on.  We are rewarded with crying, fussing, being spit up on and peed on.  Maybe even at the same time.  It’s a tireless job and a thankless one.  Our days seem to be on repeat.

One day, something changes and your little person does something new–cutting a tooth, smiling at you, reaching for a toy, giving you baby kisses (aka slobbering on you with their mouth open).  Each new milestone is exciting and we tell everyone we meet about it.  And then life resumes and we adjust our schedule or move the plant that used to be safe on the floor but isn’t now because your munchkin figured out how to crawl.  But more than anything, your days seems to be on repeat.
Fast forward and your sweet baby is learning to talk.  The first time we hear “mama” or “dada” we swear it is the most beautiful sound in the world and we’ll do anything it takes to get our kiddos to repeat it over and over again.  Really embarrassing things.  But it’s totally worth it to hear them say the word.  Somehow, it’s validation for all the long nights and early mornings we’ve endured because it feels like they are recognizing us by calling us “mama” or “dada”.  Every day is new, but many things remain the same, as if on repeat.

Soon enough, our children learn that words mean something and they can have an effect on the world around them by using those words.  Words like “please” and “thank you” are part of their vocabulary due to constantly saying them each time you give them something or receive something in return, be it a flower, a rock or a half chewed grape.  But the same cute voice that we used to beg to say “mama” also says “no!” and “mine!” much more often than we’d like.  And we’re back to repeating ourselves that we need to be nice and not yell.  Always repeating.

Another child enters the picture, be it a sibling, a cousin, a friend, a classmate or some random kid on the playground.  We listen with our keen parenting ears for signs of discord.  We ask ourselves if we’ve taught them right.  To play nicely.  To not push or yell or bite.  To take turns.  When they aren’t in our immediate care, the same questions roll through our minds.  We do our best to be nearby to adjust the situation, to remind them of the rules, to please, please “find a way to play together”.  (Thank you Daniel Tiger.)  We feel as though we are talking all day long, but there’s not much variation on the words that come out of our mouths, as though we are on constant repeat.

Our days are long.  Our nights are short.  No one told us that raising a human being would require so much energy.  So much self-control to not scream when your child has asked the same. blasted. question. for the fifth time in as many minutes.  No one told us how sick and tired we would get of hearing the ABCs, no matter how many variations there are of it on Sesame Street.  And no one told us that life as a stay-at-home mom would be so repetitive.

We are not perfect, you and I.  We mess up sometimes.  Okay, a lot of the time.  We yell at our kids more than we mean to or get frustrated when they don’t remember the answer to a question.  But do you know what?  We need the repetition as much as they do.  We learn to become more patient, more kind, more grateful.  Just like we are doing our best to teach our children, they are teaching us too.  Our kids keep letting us try again to do better–to be better–day after day, week after week, month after month and yes, year after year.  As hard and as frustrating as it is, repetition is how we learn.  How we all learn.  Through repetition.

So, yes.  I am a broken record.  And I’m grateful for it.

One Thing That Will Change The Way You Discipline Your Kids

I remember when my daughter was almost two years old.  She started getting into more trouble, throwing more tantrums and lots of the word “no!” (from both of us).  My husband and I talked to family and friends and read a lot of books to try and decide what type of “discipline method” we wanted to use.  We wanted to make sure that we were united on our method so it didn’t matter who was disciplining our child, they would get the same treatment.

Here we are two years later and my son is now almost the same age as my daughter was when we first started looking at disciplining methods.  The only difference is that now we’ve had a little practice so it’s not as big of a challenge when we’re faced with the same tantrums. *wink*

So I’m going to let you in on the one thing that has made the biggest difference for us in the way we discipline our kids: follow through.
Before I talk a little more about this, let me take you through the typical process I use when I’m faced with my child acting in a way that isn’t ok.

Example:

My daughter is choosing to pick a fight with her brother over a toy that is his and that he was playing with first.

My actions: Watch to see if they are able to resolve it without me getting involved.  If so, no further action is needed.  If not, I give my daughter her first warning.

My daughter continues to fight with her brother.

My actions: Watch for a moment to see if they resolve it.  If not, I give my daughter a second warning.

My daughter is still fighting with her brother about they toy and pushes him.

My actions: Give my daughter her final warning and tell her she needs to go to time out.

She walks over to time out but does not sit in time out.

My actions:  I tell her to sit in time out or I will be adding time to how long she needs to be there.

She doesn’t sit in time out and continues to try and argue why she doesn’t want to go to time out.

My actions:  I add time to her time out and continue to add time until she chooses to get in time out.  Then I start the timer and do not interact with her until the timer goes off.  When the timer goes off, she comes to talk to me about why she was in time out and why time had to be added.  The time for discipline is over and she can continue playing.

If the same thing were to happen when my husband was home, he would follow the same steps.  You could also think about it as being consistent.  Obviously, it would be impossible to be consistent all the time, but I’d like to think we do this at least 80% of the time.

*Note: In case you’re interested in the specifics of the method we’ve chosen to help us discipline our kids, you can check out the book 1-2-3 Magic.  We’ve tweaked it a little for our family, but the basics are all there.

Another aspect of following through is asking yourself this question: If my child misbehaves and I give them the consequence for their actions, am I willing to follow through with it?  

I remember the week before we went to Disneyland, my daughter was acting a little extra naughty.  As much as I wanted to say, “If you don’t act nicely, we’re not going to Disneyland”, was I really going to follow through with that?  No.  So that’s when I had to rethink the consequence for her actions to something more appropriate to her behavior and something that I would actually follow through with.

As parents, we have to be committed to doing what we say we are going to do.  If we don’t, our kids will learn that they can act badly and not expect any consequences.  So if you are on your way to get ice cream and your kids are fighting on the way and you tell them they need to stop or you’ll turn around and go home, you better be sure that’s what you’re willing to do (even though you totally deserve that ice cream!).  If you tell your child they have to finish their chores or they don’t get to play with their friend, you have to follow through no matter what.  If our kids misbehave and we say there is going to be a consequence, they know it’s not an empty threat. (Obviously, I am assuming that none of you are abusing your children and that you are using constructive forms of discipline.)

When we are consistent in our parenting, it teaches our children that they are safe and secure with us.  They know we’ll follow through on the good stuff as well as the not so good.  It builds a strong foundation of trust and our children will know that we are there for them when life gets hard. When we discipline our children, we show them that we love them because we’re teaching them how to keep commitments, to be responsible, be accountable for their actions and learn the difference between right and wrong.  And as parents, isn’t that what we want for our children?

What helps you be consistent in your parenting?