Raising a Happy Child

Practical Gardening Tips for Raising a Happy Child

happy-childAs parents we all want pretty much the same things for our children. We want them to be happy, healthy, and able to create a rewarding life for themselves. Our job is to do our best to equip our children with the skills and personal qualities they’ll need to reach those goals.

In a very real sense, parents are gardeners, providing the right environment and care so the magic of life can take hold and flourish.

The right kind of soil

Your child can only grow a strong root system in soil that is safe and rich in the nutrients necessary for growth. This means a child’s home and environment must be safe: free from physical and emotional dangers. This safety then allows children to absorb the nutrition you provide in the food and love you give.

A balance of sun and rain

Just as too much sun or too much rain will spell disaster for our gardens, the nurturing we give our children must be balanced. “Sun” in this case is all the love, warmth, affection, attention, and positive reinforcement we provide to help our children develop a stable sense of safety as they explore the world and people around them. Love shows them that they are wanted and important.

“Rain” balances out the sun; it represents the limits we must place on our children so they may reach their potential and function independently. Overcoming challenges and experiencing frustration are necessary for children to develop self-control, socially acceptable behaviors, and a sense of competence in relation to their environment. Children need to practice experiencing frustration in frequent, small doses to gain confidence in themselves and their ability to work through challenges.

Love and limits

Creating this good balance is largely about providing the right measure of discipline and nurturance for children to thrive. If parents focus too much on limits (boundaries, punishments, life lessons and negative messages), children feel deprived of safety and a warm connection with their parents. Such children may react with angry, defiant, sneaky or manipulative behaviors, and they may also develop self-destructive behaviors down the road.

On the other hand, if parents under-emphasize limits, their children may become ungrateful, spoiled, and lacking in resilience and the ability to delay gratification of their needs or desires. Interestingly, these children also express feelings of being unloved. They secretly wish and express (in their behavior and in therapy) that their parents would demonstrate that they care by saying “no” more often.

You have to be there

Parenting is a hands-on job. Your child needs you to be there—physically and emotionally. Your time and attention prove to your child that you love her or him. Being there also allows you to discover your child’s individual needs. Every child is unique, and siblings (even twins) often need slightly different measures of Love and Limits.

There is no substitute for being there. Your positive physical presence will make your child feel worthwhile because they are clearly worth your time and attention. Kids also want a witness. Witnessing says that their activity is important, special and “real.”

Practice observing and listening to understand what they are saying, doing and meaning. Children love and need to be understood. Also, let your children know that you are a person with thoughts and feelings, too. Talk about how things affect you. Use your emotional experiences to help your children understand their own reactions. If you practice managing your own emotions and impulses effectively, your children will learn to do the same. If you talk a good game but act out, your children will have a hard time managing their feelings and impulses, and will not trust what you say.