There is absolutely no doubt that raising a family can be an exhausting, challenging and on many occasions a frustrating business; but when you get it right there is no single experience in life that will prove to be as fulfilling and rewarding as bringing up happy children.
Every parent wants to do the very best they can for their children and aspires, to be the “perfect parent”; but without an instruction manual to tell us what we need to do to get there and without a big chequered flag being waved to congratulate us when we’ve actually got there, how do we really know when we’ve achieved this position of mythical stature?
Well the good news it that there’s no such thing as the “perfect parent”, so we can all stop worrying about getting there!
They only exist in Hollywood films!
Our aspirations as parents is about ensuring that our children all grow up as happy kids, full of life, confidence and self assurance and that we can help, guide and nudge them to grow into perfectly well rounded and balanced adults.
Our focus on the parental adventure is about embracing all that we can do to make this goal more achievable – if we all aspire to that, then that for me is as close as any of us can ever get to being the perfect parent!
It’s not about how often or where you take your kids out for day trips, or how much you spoil them with gifts and goodies that’s important; it’s about the time you spend with them and about embracing the key skills and resources that we as parents all have readily available in our armoury already to ensure that the end goal of raising happy, confident children is achieved.
As a qualified parent coach, I frequently see families who have become so consumed and frustrated with trying to achieve the unachievable in their parental lives that they just don’t know what else to try to make things better!
Most often just some direction, clarity and confidence that they’re doing the right things, is all that’s needed and by refocusing on the simple things that we can all do as parents to improve the lives of our children is enough to improve the situation immeasurably.
This is one of the key reasons that I was so delighted to have been involved as the author of Raising Happy Children for Dummies.
Parenting is a very much a business of evolving and growing along with your child, developing and learning and remaining flexible through the various stages of their lives. The skills required of us when our children are toddlers are very different to the skills required when they are teenagers!
My work is all about looking at the various things that you can learn and implement into your lives throughout the different stages of development of your children that will give them a more fulfilling and happy upbringing.
Tips for happy babies
Connect and have fun with your baby – Even at this young age your baby will love to play with you; and play equals fun in anyone’s book. By smiling and relaxing and displaying signs of enjoyment your baby will engage with you and become curious about the world in a safe environment ready to explore for the world for themselves. As your baby develops, these early key learnings will stay with them as they continue to associate play with happiness and laughter.
Recognise your baby’s achievements – Instilling confidence in your baby can literally start from day one. No one feels better than when they are recognised for doing something well and when your baby reaches their early milestones high praise and reward in the form of smiles and hugs will stay with them as they recount feelings of joy associated with their achievements.
Practice unconditional love – Always grab the opportunity to show your baby how much you care for them. Touching, nuzzling and cuddling as much as possible will instil feelings of security and love, and the more you do it the better.
Let your baby learn – It’s tempting to help your baby do everything, as seeing them getting frustrated and angry as they try and fail to do something can sometimes be distressing. Letting them learn for themselves however will give them an amazing sense of achievement when they succeed, breeding confidence and self assurance that they can achieve other tasks.
Tips for happy toddlers
Set routines – Routines will provide your child with the security that they need and will comfort them as they feel safe by understanding what’s going on. Regular meal times will give you opportunities to bond together around the dinner table, making meal times fun and more enjoyable, whilst a regular bedtime routine will afford you the time to read to them, bond further and obviously give them the rest they need.
Keep your use of “no” to a minimum – Try to stay positive and use “no” as little as possible. Your child will pick up on the positive vibes and copy this style of thinking and speaking. When “no” is essential, namely if your child’s safety is in question, then use it calmly and not in an alarmist or angry manner.
Make life more interesting for them – Play games. Get your child to close their eyes and put something in their hand for them to guess what it is. Draw something on their back with your finger and see if they can tell what it is. Encourage your child to use their imagination and let them explore their inventive, creative side as this will be a great fun to them at this age.
Lighten up – The “terrible two’s” can be a deeply distressing period for parents. Try to chill out and remember your sense of humour. This phase won’t last forever and displaying anger and frustration will only create negativity. Again, try to remain positive at all times.
Tips for happy pre-schoolers
Let them develop themselves – Don’t try to force your child to be how you want them to be; allow them the freedom to develop themselves, but under your guidance and direction. Yes, they’ll make mistakes along the way, but this way they’ll learn and their character will develop accordingly. Encourage them to make their own decisions and praise them highly when you feel they are right.
Show them respect – Showing your child respect clearly displays that you trust them to make their own decisions. They’ll be craving independence at this age and will be tying to thrust their opinions at you – Make sure you listen, and try to respect their opinions, this way you’re child will learn to respect yours. Encourage them to make their own decisions and praise them highly when you feel they are the right ones.
Spend quality time – It’s important at all stages of your child’s life to make your time with them quality and not quantity. Ten minutes spent doing something that your child enjoys is infinitely more valuable than spending an hour doing something you want or see as “educational”.
Be a role model – Your own behaviour will be a constant fascination to your children and it’s important to therefore ensure that you try to maintain a positive positive attitude at all times when you are with them. They’ll pick up on your attitude to everything so be a positive role model and watch your kids become happy, confident and positive too.
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About the author
Sue Atkins is a Parenting Expert who offers practical guidance for bringing up happy, confident, well behaved children. She is also the author of “Raising Happy Children for Dummies” one in the famous black and yellow series published worldwide and the highly acclaimed Parenting Made Easy CDs. She regularly appears on BBC Breakfast and The Jeremy Vine Show on BBC Radio 2 and her parenting articles are published all over the world.
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Sue Atkins the Parenting Expert
T: + 44 1342 833355 M: 07740 622769
Surrey RH7 6LF