We all want to rise happy and well-adjusted children. Most of us have high expectations for our children: we want them to succeed and excel in their careers, to be loved and appreciated. It is part of our ego: at the end of the day we want to say that we did a pretty good job at parenting.
Here we will talk about raising a child to be positive. Most parenting articles we read and opinions we hear are about how our children should excel at school, how they should behave better, how they need to be socially accepted, how they should be happy in an egocentric manner and so on. But what they do not say is how we are going to raise them to true happiness by becoming a grateful, optimistic and altruistic person.
How exactly are we going to raise a happy and positive child? Well, good examples start from above! Do you think you’re teaching your child how to be a decent human being instead of a high achiever? Think again. According to a study by Richard Weissbourd, a Harvard psychologist who runs a project called Making Caring Common, 80% of children stated that their parents were more concerned about their achievement and personal happiness than caring for others. Are you starting to get worried whether you’re actually teaching your children what is important?
Why is being caring towards others a part of being a positive child? According to Dr. Martin Seligman, the father of Positive Psychology, authentic happiness can only be conquered through a meaningful life as opposed to a life of pleasure and engaging activities alone (all three levels are in fact important but long-lasting happiness can only be achieved through meaning). Could there be any more meaning to life than being truly involved and caring for others?
The research studies with Catholic nuns have showed that they have the highest happiness levels than other professional groups. They see meaning in their lives by devoting themselves to caring for others. Studies also found that positive emotions in early life is directly linked with overall health and longevity. Isn’t it something that every parent wants for their children?
How can we raise moral, respectful and caring children?
Here are five recommendations:
Be a strong role model and mentor. Children are not just empty vessels we pour knowledge into. They need to learn from their role models (parents) how to be respectful, honest, fair and caring. Listen to your children and help them think about ethical and moral dilemmas. Also practice a community service at least once a month and take your child with you, if possible.
Making caring for others a priority. It’s all about the values we pass on as parents. If what we convey is that “you’re number one” your child will probably develop an egocentric way of looking at life, ignoring others’ needs. Send out the right message through your own words and actions. Make sure your children are kind to others even when feeling sad or angry. After all, other people are not our punching bags!
Provide opportunities for children to practice caring and gratitude. In everyday life, in the simplest situations, there’s always an opportunity to express caring and gratitude. And studies have shown that people who have the habit of expressing gratitude are more likely to be helpful, generous, compassionate and forgiving. Is it helping a friend with their homework, helping grandpa with his lawn or engaging in a community event? Doesn’t matter as long as you encourage such attitudes.
Expand your child’s circle of concern. It’s not that we can’t see what’s around us. It’s that we’re not actually looking or observing. Encourage your child to observe the world with more caring eyes, to empathize for people’s suffering, talk to them about what goes on in the world. And remember small actions change the world. Whether it’s comforting a classmate that has been bullied or being kind to the bus driver.
Guide children in managing destructive feelings. We all have our bad days and feel angry or concerned or sad. But taking out on others is not the solution. Although there are no such thing as bad feelings, it’s necessary for children to deal with them in the right way. Help your child hope with negative feelings in the right way.
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