Chrstmas Spirit

Chrstmas Spirit
My wife and kids having a little holiday fun

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

What Makes a Child Happy

Well, it's official.  I have achieved over 1,000 hits on this blog.  I can't thank everyone enough for reading this.  I truly appreciate your time and hope you have benefited by something I have written.   The rules stay the same.  Judge this blog by its merits.  If you like it, please promote it to your friends and neighbors.  Many people struggle with kids or just want to get a better handle on them.  Topics like the one today may go a long way in achieving the goal.  If the blog isn't good enough in your mind, don't pass it along and I will try harder next time.  Today, I want to talk about the happiness of children.

This may seem like a pretty simplistic subject.  From my perspective, it is not.  Many of my readers may already have happy children. Have you ever thought why?  Today's blog is going to focus on what makes children happy and what you can possibly adjust if your child isn't happy.  At times, there are quick fixes.  Other times, there is a structural gap.  When I was a teacher, I would sometimes be warned by parents how much the kids "didn't like school" or what a "handful they would be."  What was amazing though is I don't remember anyone being consistently unhappy.  Maybe I had the touch or maybe it was something more.  

Even kids at St. Joseph Children's Home were happy the far majority of the time.  This may be surprising to some of you because of their circumstances.  After all, they were stripped from their natural homes initially by child care workers with police involvement, stripped from their homes permanently by the courts, and placed in a home full or strangers with no hope of returning to their families.  Could you imagine being in their shoes?  Heck, I worked there and couldn't imagine it.  What do you think your happiness level would have been if placed under the same circumstances?

The truth is most of my days working there were very pleasant.  The kids looked a lot like yours.  They went to school, played sports, and liked to have fun.  Although they missed their families from time to time; most of the kids kept smiles on their faces and were a great joy to be around.  When studying happiness in children- these kids had little to be happy about- or did they? 

After some deep reflection, I've determined a child's happiness is crucial to overall development and the good news is it's not that hard to facilitate as a parent.  I really believe almost all children want to be happy.  They may get upset with something you did.  They may show sadness over something that happened at school.  They may even act out of control when they are mad.  But deep down, children want to be happy.  With the diverse population I have worked with, here are four common themes to happiness.  I am sure you will be able to think of more things that make children happy in your home; but these things really stand out to me over the test of time.  They are not written in any particular order.

1.  Consistency- Kids didn't always like what I did and some would get mad at me;  but I was consistent.  When other kids messed up, I didn't show favoritism or excuse behaviors.  Therefore, when "Joe" saw me consequence "Bob" in a similar way, Joe felt better in the long run.  The opposite was true as well.  When Joe saw me give praise to Bob, he knew if he repeated those actions, he would get praise as well.  Though I am using boys names, girls were treated the same way. When kids of mine knew what to "give" to receive the reaction they were looking for; it really helped their overall happiness.

2.  Routines- Kids I have worked with loved their routines.  This could mean the bedtime routine of me reading a story or even the after school routine with homework.  Occasionally, when I broke a routine, it was special but it didn't last long.  I believe the lack of consistent routines causes confusion which can lead to a degree of unhappiness.  Have you ever noticed in your child's school how "routine" everything is?  This is generally by design.  How you implement any given routine is up to you; but they are crucial, in my mind, for overall happiness.   

3.  Advocacy- Children I worked with knew I was on their side.  When kids had problems at St. Joseph's, in school, or with other kids or teachers, they knew they could turn to me for a fair shake. I didn't always give them what they wanted but they always had my ear and knew I would go to bat for them.  This created a form of stability which all kids are desperate to have.  I wrote about this in more detail in my book and recently had an episode with Cameron at his school I may write about in a future blog.  For now, know that you can not advocate enough for your child. 

4.  Expressed Love- This may be the last point but it is certainly not the least.  I told kids at St. Joseph's, in my classrooms, and in my home that I loved them and I meant it every time.  When kids feel genuinely loved, they will move mountains.  No matter what was going on when I wasn't around, things changed when I walked in a room.  I can't tell you how many times certain kids at St. Joseph's would look mad as hell- a shift change would occur- I would walk in and their demeanor turned completely around.  There were others in my classrooms who would be happy all day; then their mood would turn when it was time to go home.  It's not that I walked on water; but I tried to give them the core thing all of us long for.  That's how powerful this point is.  Expressed love is like the warmth of a blanket, a roaring fire, and a mug of hot chocolate after coming in from playing in the snow.  If you remember none of the other points I have made, you had better remember this one for your child to experience true happiness.

This Friday- the free for all blog will be a question from a parent whose child was having trouble in school with a teacher.  I'll let you know some details and the course of action laid out.  I hope it will help anyone who is having similar problems.  There will also be some tips those of you who do not currently have problems should store away. You never know when a problem will occur.

All the best to you and your family!

1 comment: