5 Ways to Wire Your Kid’s Brain for Happiness

As parents, as much as it pains us to say it, we will not always be there for our kids.

You
can’t trail behind your middle schooler in the hallways to ward off
bullies. You can’t force the basketball coach to add your high schooler
to the team roster after they had a bad try-out. And you can’t always be
there to comfort your college-aged baby when they don’t do well on a
test.

However, there is something you can do to prepare them for unexpected and unfortunate moments in their lives:

You can train your child’s brain for happiness and strength.

You
can give them the tools they need to work through losses, bounce back
from disappointments, and be emotionally strong enough to take on any
challenges they face.

Starting at a young age, you can do these 5
simple things to raise children with strong emotionally intelligence
skills and ingrain core values. In-turn, their brains will be wired for
happiness.

5 Ways to Wire Your Kid's Brain for Happiness
1) Teach Them to Label Their Emotions

Growing evidence suggests that it is difficult to identify and label the variety of emotions we experience at any given time.

In fact, in one poll
60 percent of interviewed college students said they did not feel
emotionally prepared to deal with negative feelings such as anxiety and
disappointment.

You may hear a child express that their ‘belly
hurts’ when they are anxious. Or if you ask how their day was they may
answer with “good” or “fine”. Encourage them to really express how they
are feeling. Commonly ask things like:

  • How did that make you feel?
  • When that happened did you feel excited or upset?
  • Do you think your belly hurts because you are nervous about something?

You can model this behavior for them by commonly speaking about your feelings.

Teaching
them to talk about their emotions will help wire their brains to
understand their own queues and acknowledge their feelings.

2) Practice and Encourage Gratitude

Teaching your children to be grateful and appreciative is an important factor to their future happiness.

In fact, many studies have linked gratitude to improved physical health, better sleep, improved self-esteem, and overall happier adults.

In fact, neuroscientists have actually shown that the brain is rewired when gratitude is practiced.

You can teach your child gratitude by encouraging manners and frequently asking questions for them to reflect on, such as:

  • Tell about a time someone was nice to you.
  • What is your favorite thing about living in this house?
  • What are you looking forward to?
  • Tell me about a time when someone gave you something that you loved.
  • Describe a time when you were upset and someone made you feel better.


3) Talk Through Positive Actions

Use small failures, losses, or disappointments as teaching opportunities.

Whether
in school, a sporting event, or even a board-game, support them through
the loss and help them understand that this is a part of life. Teach
your children to lose elegantly, congratulate opponents (if it applies),
and work hard. When things don’t go as planned, discuss what they can
do in the future to prepare differently or practice harder.

You
can also talk through positive solutions for hypothetical problems. For
example, I will occasionally ask my children things like:

  • If you saw kids at recess making fun of another kid, what would you do?
  • If you did bad on a test, what would you do next time to prepare?
  • If someone dropped their books in the hall at school, and helping them would make you late for class, what would you do?

 
4) Give Them Space to Make Mistakes and Work Through Them

Resist
the tempting urge to swoop in and prevent your child from making a
mistake. Allow them to slip up and learn from the outcome.

When
we hover over children and guide them away from every little threat, we
are not preparing them for the world ahead of them.

Let them
fall and scrape their knee. Allow them to work out an argument with
their friend or sibling. Give your children the opportunity to learn how
to problem solve.

Lastly, if they come to you for help, don’t
just solve their problem for them. Talk through three possible solutions
to their problem, and what they think would be the best course of
action.

5) Teach Responsibility

Prepare
your child for future responsibilities by introducing them to chores.
Research suggests that children who do chores have higher self-esteem,
are more responsible, and are better equipped to deal with frustration.
Additionally, these skills can lead to greater success in school, work,
and even relationships.

Also, teach your children to take
responsibility for their actions. If your child makes a bad choice, you
can talk to them about how to fix it.

Remember, teach them to
never play the’ victim card’. Don’t make comments that divert blame such
as, “I am sure you cheated because your teacher didn’t do a good job
teaching the lesson” or “You probably didn’t make the basketball team
because the coach wasn’t paying attention.”

Instead, focus on accepting the outcome and the best future steps to take.

References

Kim L. Gratz, Lizabeth Roemer. Multidimensional Assessment of
Emotion Regulation and Dysregulation: Development, Factor Structure, and
Initial Validation of the Difficulties in Emotion Regulation Scale.
Journal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment, 2004, Volume 26,
Number 1, Page 41

The Harris Poll. (2015, October 8). Students Who Feel Emotionally
Unprepared for College More Likely to Report Poor Academic Performance
and Negative College Experience. 

Amy Morin. 7 Scientifically Proven Benefits of Gratitude. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/what-mentally-strong-people-dont-do/201504/7-scientifically-proven-benefits-gratitude . Accessed, 12/9/2019.

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