A happy child plays, exhibits curiosity, shows an interest in things and other children; an unhappy child tends to need constant attention, they are withdrawn, quiet, and don't eat much. They tend not to get involved with other children and don't ask questions or speak very much. However, if you have a shy child who doesn't interact a great deal, that does not mean they are unhappy. Being shy is not being sad.
P. Hollinger notes there are nine inborn signals that babies use to communicate feelings. The following signals can also be spotted in toddlers and are good pointers to how happy the toddler is.
Dealing with Children and making them happy
Play - Toys, expensive clothes, lashings of ice cream: do these make children happy? Perhaps in the short term, for an hour or two, but what really makes them happy is having fun with parents, grandparents or their childminders. When they have fun and play games and laugh with you, that play creates joy. It also helps with their imagination, creativity and relaxation.
Talents - Help children develop their own talents. If they are good at something, they will feel happy about that. If they like modeling, keep some cartons and lids and let them create a robot out of boxes. If they like drawing, then let them make a picture and hang it on the wall. Help them master a skill and see how happy they will be.
Let them do what they want - Within reason, this is an important lesson for parents to understand. No matter how much you want them to learn piano, if they don't want to then they won't enjoy it. Try not to push them to do things they aren't interested in. Listen to their own ideas. If they are talking about going to football, rather than ballet, then give it a try. And, try not to stick to gender prejudices. Girls can play football, boys can do ballet!
Healthy bodies - To enable the children to play and run and enjoy life to the full, give them a healthy diet. With good food, and lots of sleep they will have the ability to really tackle tasks and situations with energy. Give them lots of time to run around.
Sad time - Being a bit sad is okay so don't try and shake them out of a mood if they are feeling a bit down. They need to be independent people and able to gauge their own moods. You can encourage them to explain how they feel and try and explain or get out of the mood together.
Be a Good Role Model - Children pick up on moods and are sensitive to other's feelings so try to be positive in your own mood and outlook. They will pick up on this and it will influence their own behaviour.
Could it be that some children born happy while others not? Some children certainly seem happier than others even if they come from the same family, so can it be that some children are going to be happy from day one and others will always be moodier or more inclined to be unhappy?
If they fall over, some children laugh and others burst into floods of tears. When they wake up, some laugh at the sunny morning and jump out of bed. Others turn over in a moody shrug. If they don't get their own way some get stroppy and remain miserable for hours. Others just move on to the next activity and forget about it. Why is this?
Some scientists would say that yes, some children do have a tendency to be happier than other children. However, it cannot be proved beyond doubt. Wherever your child is on the happy/sad spectrum, the important thing is to be aware of how they might respond in certain situations and react accordingly.
Child psychologist Dr. Lise Eliot, Associate Professor in the Department of Neuroscience at the Chicago Medical School, maintains that happiness is a state of mind, a mood, rather than an inborn trait. However, certain aspects of a baby's temperament (shy or bold for example) will play a role in determining how happy they are. And, it is this emotional information that is embedded in the brain.
This doesn't mean to say that if your little one is scared of going to pre-school, or nervous of new people that they will be unhappy later in life. Not at all. In fact nature and nurture play an equally important role in the first years of a child's life. Just because a baby's temperament (confident or reserved) may be determined by nature, it doesn't mean it's permanent. Nurture plays a very important role too and those early traits can be modified and honed down with careful parenting. The end result is personality... a blend of the two.
Personality is controlled by the frontal lobe of the brain. We feel good things in the left frontal cortex and bad things in the right, according to scientists. It is said that people with happier dispositions have more activity in their left frontal lobe.
So, spot any signs of unhappy tendencies and deal with them. Support a nervous child; try to tame a bold child; nurture a nervous child and try to guide them to be rounded, happy and creative individuals.
What makes children happy - a new toy, a bar of chocolate, a nice frilly dress? These things might bring immediate happiness, and a smile to their faces, but it's not these things that will make them into happy adults.
Despite the fact all of us want to be happy, and hope our children will be happy, there is not that much research on discovering the key to happiness. Psychologists tend to focus on how to make unhappy people less unhappy rather than how to make happy people even happier.
There is a line of study that focuses on positive psychology and the study of being happy. It has found that being rich does not necessarily make you happy and that those in very poor or deprived situations are not necessarily unhappy. It seems once we reach a certain level of income, no more money will make you any happier.
Happy, secure relationships seem to be the once constant factor in happy people's lives. And, it is the relationship that children have with their parents that can be a deciding factor in their overall and long term happiness. Why? Because a good relationship can mean a child has higher self-esteem, has a positive view of the world and higher expectations.
When left with other people, a secure child may be upset when the parents leave but will easily be comforted after a short while and then will play happily. When the parent returns they will be happy to see the parent. An insecure child will be very upset and remain upset when a parent goes. On returning, the child will likely ignore or avoid the parent.
However, not all children will be doomed to an unhappy life if this is the case...but there is a link showing secure children are more likely to grow up with fewer relationship problems (with friends, spouses and their own children).
This is the idea that children know what they are good at and are pleased when their skill or achievement is noticed by others. They feel proud and happy that they have done well. This doesn't mean to say they should only be encouraged to be the best or do the best... instead they should be encouraged to try and have a go and be rewarded by undertaking an activity. They will play a game for the fun or it rather than only to win.
It has to be noted that genetics play a part in happiness. If your parents tend to be happy, then you will. This may be linked to the inherited personality traits (extroverts tend to be happier than introverts).
So, the best thing we can do as parents is to try to develop a good relationship with our children: encourage and engage with them to do activities and focus on tasks together and encourage and stimulate them as much as we can. ...and the odd chocolate button would be a nice treat too!
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