I was talking to my friend a couple of nights ago. Somewhere in the midst of our conversation, he said, “Always ask yourself if your children are happy. Make sure you are raising happy children. And by happy I neither mean spoiling them nor getting your hands off and giving them ultimate freedom.”
That struck a chord in me. I paused for a bit and repeated the words in my head. While it sounds like a given, and something all parents obviously strive to do, it’s actually not at simple as it sounds. It is quite tricky really.
See, in this day and age, there’s been an alarming increase of Singaporean children falling prey to depression or even suicide. And no, it’s not just teenagers. It’s happening to children as young as 9 or 10. And with rising awareness about these issues, parents are increasingly concerned about raising happy children.
But there’s a thin line that sets apart a child that’s happy from one that’s spoilt. For if you give your child most, if not all of what he wants, chances are he’s not going to act up. He’s going to appear as an angel and that convinces you he’s happy. But the damage doesn’t show up immediately. A few years down the road, or when you start saying no more often, you will see the effects.
So how do you ensure that you are raising happy children?
Raising happy children
There’s a lot that goes into raising happy children. Firstly, a happy child is a child that’s secure. And contrary to popular belief, constant emphasis on how amazing and wonderful your child is does not make him feel more secure.
Make your child feel secure first of all by ensuring that your home environment is a safe and happy one. Love your spouse, openly and endlessly. In his recent speech about marriage and happiness, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan emphasised that the most important gift a father can give his children is “to love their mother”.
A secure home also means there is room for conflict, disciplining and telling your child to pull his socks up when there’s a need to. But of course, in addition to all of this, you don’t forget to emphasise that you love each other, all the time.
Show your children that family means loving each other even on days that you struggle to like each other.
Raising happy children also means inculcating values in them. Values such as empathy, kindness, sensitivity, humility, respect, a lot of respect, gratitude and appreciation. A child without these values will never grow up happy, for if you don’t ensure that they have these values, they will learn in the hard way.
Raising happy children means not shielding them from difficult and uncomfortable situations and emotions. They need to experience disappointment, failure and boredom. It is crucial and necessary for their development.
Too many parents these days are trying to make life a bed of roses for their children and trust me, nothing good comes out of that.
And if you keep protecting them from such situations, they start lacking faith in themselves. They don’t see themselves as strong and resilient enough to get through the challenges.
Happy children do not believe that the world is perfect. Happy children know that their journey is fraught with challenges but the choose to focus on their grit to get through it, come what may. And that grit doesn’t come out of a vacuum. It’s your job as parents to make them have that grit!
Raising happy children means holistically preparing them to face the world that is constantly evolving. Build in them skills and adaptability to face what is in store in the next 20 to 30 years and beyond.
It’s really not that hard mums and dads. Think of a successful person. Analyse the qualities that they have and do your best to train your children to have these qualities!