100 Ways to Happy Children: A guide for busy parents by Dr Timothy Sharp
What parent, busy or otherwise, doesn’t want happy children? This book is a good list of reminders for all these things that parents know they should do, but sometimes forget.
The ways are grouped into different areas, and many of them reinforce each other. Here are some that resonated with me.
3. Actions speak louder than words
27. Be kind to one another
41. Model appropriate behaviours and attitudes
81. Be a good role model
Your children ignore (sometimes wilfully) much of what you say, but they subconsciously learn from what you do.
14. Understand the importance of optimism
32. Build resilience
71. Teach your child to keep going
If your children don’t believe in themselves then they will have a hard time in everything they do.
42. Set structure and boundaries
Everyone needs limits and boundaries to explore. It’s easier for everyone in the family if there are boundaries that are respected by all. Most of the time, anyway.
55. Aim for quantity time as well as quality time
56. Talk to your child
57. Listen to your child
I have always thought that quality time is a myth. Children don’t need quality time with their parents, they just need time. That’s why you had kids in the first place, isn’t it?
62. Foster a love of school
Whatever kind of schooling they do, they will spend maybe 10,000 hours or more in it. If they don’t like it then that’s a lot of time to be unhappy.
82. Make healthy eating fun
91. Reduce screen time
Of course, keep a healthy mind and body. Some educators recommend that children have no screen time at all until they are 7 years old. Dr Sharp isn’t quite so extreme, but he does recommend no screen time for under 2s. Children from 2 to 5 years old can have up to an hour of screen time per day, and over 5s can handle 2 hours. My family has been going with a scheme like this and it’s working out fine. Our boys would probably play computer games all day if we let them. So we don’t let them. (See 42. Set structure and boundaries above.)
43. Short-term pain equals long-term gain
This is true if you do it right. If you do it wrong then short-term pain just equals pain. But it’s good to remember, say, that three years of work on one area can lead to 60 years of benefits. Parenting is a long game.
100. Love your child for who they are
Because they will never be anyone else.
You can download a full list for free from the Happiness Institute. It’s mostly the same as the list in the book, though some are slightly different. To get all the reasoning behind them, you should read the book too. Your children will thank you later. (But probably not till they have kids themselves and realise how hard it is.)