Rasing Happy Children

Ten Ways to Make Children Feel Loved

Parenting isn’t easy and second guessing comes with the territory. Parents often ask themselves: Am I a good mother? Am I repeating my parents’ mistakes? Am I too tough on my kids? Do I spend enough time with them? There are no easy answers, because every child is different. But, there are some great ways to make your children feel loved and help them grow into happy adults.

Listen to Their Stories. When children are young they often get ignored. Then, when they are teenagers, parents wonder why their responses have been limited to "Uh huh" and "Ok." Developing good communication skills with your children begins when they are young. Treat them as if what they have to say is important, because it is. Obviously, this is balanced with teaching proper conduct about interrupting and staying on topic but, once children have been taught the of manners conversation, showing that you care about what they have to say will boost their self-confidence and help them articulate themselves later in life.

Imagine with Them. What if a child were president? What if we had wings instead of arms? What if animals could really talk? If we are not careful, parents can tend to dismiss such comments as pure silliness. But, what would happen if we went along with the absurdity? Instead of dismissing it and telling them to grow up, let your children enjoy their childhood. Enlarge and explore their imagination, as well as your own. Ask questions that deepen the scenario, such as: "If you were president what decisions would you make?" "Wouldn’t I look funny if I had three eyes!" What do you think your fish would say about the new plant we bought for his tank?" The sky isn’t even the limit when it comes to imagination. Fostering creative thinking can help children keep the gift of imagination and help them grow into innovative adults with out-of-the-box ideas.

Shower with Affection. I have heard that the average person needs about 12 hugs every day. Since children are developing their self-esteem and inter-personal skills, I am confident that their daily requirement greatly exceeds that number. Children crave touch and need such physical interaction in order to prepare them for future loving relationships. Hold, rock, cuddle, hug, kiss, pat, tickle, rub noses, hold hands, sit together, snuggle and touch your children. You’ll get lots of hugs and kisses in return and your children will never forget how loved you made them feel while they were growing up.

Develop a Routine. Every morning, my children are served breakfast at the table before they are dressed for the day. On optimal days, they get scrambled eggs or a bowl of homemade oatmeal. On hurried days it might be toast with butter, but they always get breakfast. And, every night I tuck them into their beds with the same goodnight song: "Night, night. Sleep tight. Time to go beddy-by. Lay down. Close your eyes. Have sweet dreams tonight." The rest of our day might be crazy, but my children know they can count on their morning grub and their night-night hug. Routine is pivotal in the life of a child. It promotes an organization, stability and comfort. These are things a child will never forget and are constant reassurances that they are loved.

Involve Them in Responsibilities. Children may complain about chores and duties, but having responsibility actually gives them something to be proud of. Have them clear off the table after dinner or take out the trash. Give them small jobs around the house such as feeding the pets or dusting the furniture. Then, as they perform these tasks well, reward them. Give incentives and praise for a job well-done. Some households prepare family chore charts and keep track of responsibilities with checkmarks or stickers. Having a visual reminder of what has been accomplished is very rewarding, even for adults.

Make Time for One-on-One Interaction. In families with two or more children, it can be a challenge to give everyone the attention they deserve. It is almost impossible to spend one-on-one time with each child every day. So, it can be helpful to make sure that, at least once a week, each child is focused on individually. This does not have to be a deviation from the usual schedule. Simply take one child aside and involve them in whatever you are doing at the time. For instance, take your oldest to the supermarket with you and talk about what has been going on in that child’s life. Nothing will make a child feel more special than to have some alone time with mom or dad.

Discipline Improper Behavior. Children who are not instructed on what is right and wrong are not happy children. Studies show that boundaries are very important in human development. Children need rules and repercussions for breaking those rules. In fact, children who are not taught that there are consequences for their actions, enter adulthood quite surprised - and often shocked - by the revelation that employers will terminate staff for tardiness regardless of the reason and law enforcement officers will write a ticket whether you saw the light turn red or not. Preparing children for accountability is a duty of parenting and, if neglected, can cause suffering and resentment in adulthood.

Make Them a Priority. Children understand priority. They understand that their parents work, that dinner needs to be cooked and that clothes need to be washed. They also understand if television, magazines or phone calls take precedence over time with them. I’ve seen two-year-olds hide their parents’ blackberries and four-year-olds throw fits for their father’s attention. Making sure children feel like they are important is crucial to their overall development and self-esteem. Take time to play. Turn off the TV and the computer, set aside your phone, and let the unswept kitchen be. It may not be number one on your to-do list, but playing with your children is not a waste of time - it is the best way to spent your time.

Explain Difficult Situations. Children’s minds are much more capable of understanding than we credit. Nothing is more frightening for a child than to know something is going on but to be completely in the dark about the situation. When my mother died, my daughter developed a misconception about sickness and hospitals. She thought hospitals were a place sick people went to die. When her brother had to have a minor surgery a few months later, she was terrified. I had been so caught up in my own grief that I had not taken the time to explain the situation to her. When we finally made up for lost time and I explained that not everyone who gets sick goes to the hospital and not everyone who goes to the hospital dies, she understood. Easily, she grasped onto the role of nurses and doctors and the purpose of medicine and needles. Describe reasoning to your children. Don’t just say no. Explain the household rules and why they were set in place. Don’t just say things like "because I said so" or "that’s the way God made it." Create in them a curiosity and a pursuit for knowledge.

Encourage Their Dreams. Have you seen the look on a boy’s face when his mother pulls out his report card full of A’s to show her friends? There is no brighter smile. When children know that you are proud of them, it motivates them to do even better. So, brag about your children’s achievements to others. But, don’t stop there. Listen to their dreams and foster their skills. My daughter wants to open her own restaurant someday. She came up with an incredible concept (so incredible that I am reluctant to share it with you because I think she might actually be able to market it someday). My husband and I haven’t dismissed her hopes as childhood fantasy. Instead, we let her watch cooking competition shows and help out in the kitchen. Will she stick with the idea? Maybe, maybe not. But encouraging her to dream gives her the confidence to pursue those dreams, whatever they may be.

No father is perfect. No mother is flawless. We all make mistakes, but parenting isn’t about perfection. It is about caring. Extending the effort to make your children feel loved is worthwhile and rewarding. By putting into practice these few simple suggestions, you just might find that you are not only raising happy children, but promoting happiness in your own life as well.