How to raise a happy child

Eight parenting tips to help you have a happy, contented child

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Think before you say, “No”

Stay positive and use “No” only when absolutely necessary. If you remain upbeat, your child will pick up on this and be influenced by your style of thinking and speaking. When “No” is essential, try to use it calmly and not in an alarming or angry way.

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Set routines

Routines will give your child the security that she needs. A regular bedtime routine enables you to read with her and have close one-on-one time. Sitting together and eating at regular times is a great way to bond and makes mealtimes more fun.

“Finding a routine that worked for us and sticking to it really transformed mealtimes in our family,” says Georgina, 40, mum to Anna, 2, and Emma, 4. “I grew up in a strict family, and we had lots of rules and routines. As I didn’t want this for my family, we used to be a bit slapdash. I didn’t like the discipline of sitting down around the table at a set time. But as soon as we tried it, the kids started to know what to expect and when, and things got easier. Now we all really enjoy sitting down together.”

Encourage imagination

Get your child to close her eyes while you put something in her hand and ask her to guess what it is. Draw something on her back with your finger and see if she can tell what it is.

These sorts of games encourage her to use her imagination and give her the opportunity to explore her inventive, creative side – and are great fun, too.

Keep your sense of humour

The ‘terrible 2s’ can be a difficult time for you as a parent, so your sense of humour is more important than ever. Try and see the funny side! This phase won’t last forever, and displaying anger and frustration will only make things worse. Try to remain positive, as a smiley face will help her feel happy, which will also influence her behaviour.

Let your child be her own person

Don’t force your child to be how you want her to be; allow her the freedom to be her own person. Yes, she’ll make mistakes, but she’ll learn. Let her make her own decisions sometimes and give her plenty of praise.

“I couldn’t wait to take my lad to the park with a football and do that father-son thing,” says David, 36, and dad to Christian, now 5. “But he wasn’t enjoying it. So we let him choose activities, and now he’s showing a real talent in areas we hadn’t been interested in, such as music. He’s also happier.”

Show your child respect

Your child craves independence as she gets older and she’ll try to thrust her opinions on you. Make sure you listen to her and respect her opinions, as this will help your child learn to respect yours.

“Stephen’s always been wilful but when he was 3, it was quite an emotional roller coaster,” says Diana, 37, mum to Adrian, 3, and Samuel, now 5. “Stephen was stubborn and wouldn’t tidy up his toys. He’d just whine and argue. After listening to him properly one day and allowing him to feel heard, we let him know that we understood him but that the toys still needed to be put away. We took him by the hand and said, ‘Come on, let’s do it together.’ Amazingly, he did!”

Together time

Think quality, not quantity: 10 minutes spent doing something with your child that she enjoys is infinitely better than an hour doing something you think she should be doing.

“I’d say to myself, ‘This weekend, I’ll take the kids somewhere special,’ but it wouldn’t happen,” admits Sandra, 38, mum to Sam, 7, Daisy, 5, and Phoebe, 2. “As soon as I stopped making grand plans and focused more on having a giggle with them at bath time, or curling up with a DVD, I noticed how much more fun we had together.”

Be a good role model

Children are fascinated by how you behave, and will pick up on your attitude to everything. If you have a cheery, positive approach to life, you’ll see your kids become happy, confident and positive, too.

Mum’s story:

“Have a splash around”

“That bath time hour can be a great time with the kids, even though they can be getting cranky and tired. Kids do love the bath, and just letting your hair down and having a splash around with them really can cheer up the day!”

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Lucy, mum to Caitlin, 5, and Jeremy, 2

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