This article highlights 7 ways to raise healthy and happy kids while maintaining your sanity.
Parenting can be one of life’s hardest jobs. It’s ever-changing, challenging, and can be frustrating as hell. It’s also the coolest job in the whole world as far as we’re concerned. And, like most things, parenting takes planning and practice. A little bit of learning goes a long way.
Our kids are young (three under 6-years at the time of writing this), but we’re hoping that a few things we’ve put into practice will help us raise healthy and happy kids while simultaneously maintaining our own sanity. (Because we’re still individuals too, not just parents.) And hopefully, we’ll learn to add things to this list as our kids grow and our family dynamic changes in the coming years.
7 Ways to Raise Healthy and Happy Kids While Maintaining Your Sanity
We listen when our kids talk to us
We practice ACTIVE listening.
When our kids are talking to us (provided they’re not interrupting), we stop what we’re doing and give them our full attention. We get down to their level and make eye contact. We listen to, and label, their feelings before helping them solve the problem, or providing a concrete answer to a plea.
For example, “Yes I want to play too! Give Mama 5 minutes to finish folding these clothes and I’ll come play with you.”
We have family rituals
It’s important for us to have family rituals for a couple of reasons. It provides us some routine and we are both creatures of habit.
In addition, many children thrive on routine because their little brains move so fast when they are young that changes, and deviations from the norm, can be difficult. This is not always true, but certainly has been the case for our family.
Some examples of our rituals:
- We grill on Sundays
- We take lots of family walks after dinner
- We have pizza night on Fridays after school
- Books and stories every night before bed
Research shows that rituals increase a child’s happiness, emotional well-being and their sense of identity.
We admit when we make mistakes
Admitting our mistakes isn’t always easy, but it helps us build trust with our kids and reinforces that everyone makes mistakes. It also shows our kids we’re human and sets the example that it’s important to take responsibility for your mistakes.
We say “I’m sorry” for our mistake when it involves someone else in the family. Our kids won’t know how to apologize sincerely if they do not see, and hear, it done at home.
We have one child in particular who is very hard on himself; he’s a perfectionist. So it’s important to us as parents to act appropriately when we make a mistake in front of him. For example, when I spill the juice, instead of cussing and getting angry (which I have been known to do), I say “oopsie daisy!” and grab a paper towel to clean it up, effectively showing my child that mistakes happen and it’s important to acknowledge them and fix them yourself.
We put our wants above our kids’ wants
We probably don’t adhere to this one as much as we should especially because our kids are so young and certainly depend on us more right now than they ever will, but we try to put things in perspective and prioritize in the following order:
- Kids’ needs
- Parents’ needs
- Parents’ wants
- Kids’ wants
This helps our sanity, shows our kids what adult hobbies look like and, hopefully, how balance can keep everyone in the family happy.
Putting your kids’ wants above your own is a common mistake that new parents make. You can read about it, and two other common mistakes that new parents make here.
We praise good behavior
Praising the behavior we want to see more of seems very simple and it definitely can be. When our kids help around the house, use their manners, are kind to each other, et al., we pause and tell them “Good Job!” and thank them. It’s important to name the specific behavior to reinforce it. This ensures they keep doing these things.
This gets difficult because our instinct is to reprimand bad behavior. (“No! Don’t do that!”) Instead of constantly pointing out the negative, we try to highlight the good. For example, when our kids are using their imagination and playing something super intensely, but it escalates into dangerous rough housing and screaming, we try to say “Great imagination! I love that you’re having fun but please try to use your inside voice and do not stand on the couch because I don’t want you to get hurt.” (Ryan note: It’s true that Alaina discourages wrestling on the couch; whereas, I’m all for the WWE Royal Rumble. Parental alignment and consistency isn’t part of this article.)
We let them spend lots of time with grandparents
There are few things more awesome than seeing your parents be grandparents, but research from Oxford, et al. also shows scientific benefits: children who are close to their grandparents have fewer emotional and behavioral problems.
An added bonus for the parents is that this provides balance in your day, even if just for one meal. We love hanging out with our kids and our parents at the same time, but occasionally we also leave our children with grandparents to go to an adult only dinner or other outing because it’s important for us to spend time alone together as well.
We talk to them about our family’s 10 commandments
These are core tenets that inform how we act, treat each other, treat others, prioritize, etc. It’s something we wrote together when our oldest was a newborn. It holds all of us accountable and gives us things to strive for every day. You can see the full list of the commandments here: Stephens’ 10 Commandments
Of course, these are all things we try to do, but don’t always get right.
Most of all, we just do our best to love them as best as we can, as hard as we can, and as often as we can, and continually let them them know that we’re in their corner/always here for them no matter what.
Steve Inskeep says
Thanks for these good tips. Listening when they speak is gold because it emphasizes presence. They get so annoyed when I respond while looking at my phone that I have to put it away when around them. My five year old will say, “dad, look in my eyes!” Convicting.