Besides good health and success, most parents want their child to experience an abundance of happiness. But guaranteeing your little one will grow up to be happy is a tall order to fill. With good health, you can do your best to feed them right and teach them healthy habits; with success, you might try to get your child interested in reading or the arts at an early age. But what are some of the things you do every day that'll make your baby happier later in life? Though it might seem impossible to predict you child's future, there are some ways you can help shape it with your daily actions.
Personally, I question myself every day on whether or not I'm doing a good enough job raising my child. Even the parenting beliefs I'm fairly confident about can give me doubt from time to time. Thankfully, the vast majority of my friends with children have assured me that being plagued by second guesses and hypothetical scenarios is just par for the course in parenthood. So if you're curious about the things you can do each day to make your baby happier later in life, then check out some of these ideas.
1. Respond On Time
Though it's impossible to be everywhere you're needed at once, making an effort to be aware of your baby's needs is a good start. Dr. Darcia Narvaez, a professor of psychology at the University of Notre Dame, told Psychology Today that, "meeting a baby's needs quickly builds the child's confidence in the self's ability to get needs met." But just how long does this boost to their happiness and self-esteem last? "This confidence stays with the child," Narvaez explained. So try and respond to your baby's needs within a timely manner.
2. Show Appreciation
You might think your little one is too young to grasp the concept of appreciation, but it seems that's not the case. In an interview with Parents, psychologist Dr. Bob Murray noted that, "happiness depends largely on the feeling that what we do is valued by others." This definitely makes sense for adults, but what does this look like in the context of a parent-child relationship? According to Murray, even toddlers can feel valued by their family when given age-appropriate tasks, like putting away toys or sorting their laundry. This sense of self-worth carries over into adulthood as well, as Murray noted.
3. Focus On Effort
When my son was nearly a month old, I was so excited with how he was progressing during tummy time. But my mom reminded me not to zero in solely on reaching milestones. As it turns out, science backs my mom up on that. As TIME reported, "parents who overemphasize achievement are more likely to have kids with high levels of depression." So it would stand to reason that focusing on your baby's efforts and good attitude, instead of perfect results, would lead to a happier child and adult.
4. Validate Their Emotions
This might sound silly, but infants as young as e8 months old can understand emotions, as Dr. Harvey Karp, a professor of pediatrics at the USC School of Medicine, told The Bump. So if your baby can display and interpret feelings, learning how to connect on their level is key. According to Karp, "showing your child that you understand the emotions she’s experiencing," leads to an emotionally healthy and happy adult.
5. Label Big Concepts
You've probably heard it before that babies are like sponges, soaking up everything around them. One way you can put them on the road to happiness is by using words they understand to identify complex feelings. The medical experts at Baby Center advised that, "even before your child can talk, you can show [them] pictures of faces and ask which one matches the way [they are] feeling."
When my son was under a year, my partner and I would name emotions we saw on television with him. For instance, if a cartoon character was jumping and laughing, I'd say, "look how happy they are with their big smiles." It can become a surprisingly easy habit to point out emotions with your child, too.
6. Love Unconditionally
Regardless of their age, children will make messes, get hurt feelings, and throw tantrums. Though it can be frustrating as a parent to endure the roller coaster of childhood development, your patience will pay off in the end. Katie Hurley, a child psychotherapist and parenting expert, told The Huffington Post, "when children know that their parents will always be there for them, for better or for worse, they are happy." Simply put, you can build a very happy future on a solid foundation of unconditional love.
7. Snuggle Away
A person who shall remain nameless often warned me that I would be "spoiling" my baby because I picked him up all the time. Dr. David Mrazek, the chairman of psychiatry and psychology at the Mayo Clinic, told Parents that comforting your infant doesn't spoil them. In fact, it does just the opposite. According to Mrazek, establishing that connection early on results in a grounded, happy child and adult. So ignore the haters and let the cuddles commence.