When first-time expecting parents first find out that they’ve got a little one on the way, they are generally overjoyed at the thought. Shortly after, they begin making trips to Babies ‘R Us and other popular baby stores making lists of all the things they need to keep their little one happy and content. Then, once they find out the sex of the little one on the way, little baby girl dresses and little boy outfits soon begin filling the closet shelves.
This is just part of the fun of having a baby. It’s fun to look through all the adorable baby items for sale and to envision how your life will be with a new family member. However, the problem that many of us have is getting out of this “our kids must have _____ in order to be happy.” It’s just a way of thinking that we get into from the time we find out we’re expecting. After all, our kids aren’t able to talk and express themselves fully for a good two years, which only encourages this way of thinking as we want to please them before a full-blown temper tantrum occurs.
My son is 4 ½ now and I can tell you that I’ve learned quite a few things from him and what it takes to keep him truly happy. Below are some of the things my son (and most other kids) needs to be happy.
1. A clear set of rules. One of the things I’ve learned over the past four years is how easy it is to be inconsistent when it comes to rules and following through with them. For instance, what I may not allow out in public, I may let slide a little at home when I’m busy. All this has done is confused my son which makes him very frustrated when he does get in trouble for the offense. Once my husband and I created a clear set of rules for him (and stuck to it regardless of where we were), we noticed a huge difference in his attitude when we had to get on to him for misbehaving.
2. One-on-one attention. As adults, our lives are incredibly busy and my husband and I often find ourselves rushing around in the evening trying to get caught up before morning comes. The problem is that when we rush around like this, our little guy feels left out and forgotten about. Now, my husband and I make it a point to spend a little one-on-one time with our son in the evenings regardless of the things left on our “to-do” list. It may be that we go for a 20 minute walk around the neighborhood or we spend some time playing in the backyard or we read a book to him before bedtime – whatever it is, as long as we spend at least 20 minutes of one-on-one time with him, he is a much happier guy because he feels loved and appreciated.
3. Plenty of play time. As mentioned above, my husband and I (and I suspect you do as well) lead pretty busy lives. There are many days when I find myself running errands constantly, all day long with my son in tow. This can make my little guy pretty grumpy and he has even said before, “I haven’t even got to play today!” After hearing this a couple of times, I got to thinking about how tiring it must be for a 4 year old to ride in a car all day without time to actually play. Since then, I have purposely slowed down my schedule by prioritizing the errands I have to do and I end up spreading my errands out over a couple of days. My little man’s disposition is much better and easier to get along with when he is able to spend some time at home playing with his toys.
Did you notice out of the three tips above, not one of them talks about how I have to make sure my son has all of the latest toys or always be dressed in name-brand clothing? No, you didn’t and that’s because kids don’t really need those things to be happy. Sure, marketers are great about making kids think that they have to have those things, but what truly makes kids happy is knowing that they have parents who love them and enjoy spending time with them. Giving kids a clear set of rules to follow, one-on-one attention every day and allowing them time to play and be kids all work together and show kids how much they are loved and cared for by their parents.
Does this mean you shouldn’t ever purchase name-brand clothing or the latest toys for your kids? Absolutely not, all I’m trying to get across is that those are not the things that will keep your kids happy and content as material items (fancy dresses, nice tuxedos, iPhones, video games, etc.) lose their appeal after a little while. Being loved and having a good relationship with your parents never gets old.