The Happiness Connection  

5 essential parenting skills

When I taught elementary and middle school, I always found September the most challenging month.

The work I put in at the beginning of the academic year set the expectations for the months that followed.

In the words of Charles Haddon Spurgeon, “Begin as you mean to go on.”

This may resonate with parents who have sent their offspring back to school this past week. Readjusting to routine after the freedom of the summer requires an extra influx of energy.

Parenting is arguably both the most rewarding and the most challenging tasks you will ever encounter.

When your first youngster arrives, you may wonder how you missed out on the child-rearing gene. Every other parent seems to naturally know what to do. Or so it appears.

Parenting does not have a one size fits all manual that gets delivered with the arrival of your first baby. Even if it did, you wouldn’t find all the answers in it.

What works for one child, may not work for the next one.

This is something that every parent with multiple children knows. Even if they share the same biological parents, it is unlikely that each child will respond to parenting attempts in the same way.

Although people have been childrearing for as long as there have been family units, it is no different than any other life career. With experience comes skill and, let’s hope, wisdom.

Like anything, you are unlikely to get everything right the first time. Practice makes perfect.

Whenever I ask parents what they want most for their children, the most frequently given answer is they want them to be happy.

It’s common to believe the best way to achieve this is to protect children from challenges or solve their problems for them. You may make things easier in the short run, but it won’t serve them in the long term.

You may have the mistaken belief that if you wrap them up to protect them, tell them how smart they are, and direct their journey through school, you will achieve that.

These principles may look good on paper, but they will not guide your child to be a happy, self-sufficient adult.

Childhood is a time of learning and preparation.

If you want to groom your offspring for a happy adulthood, you must guide them to stand on their own two feet and trust their instincts.

Childhood is the best time to learn you are a resilient problem solver. How do you do that?

Here are five gifts you can give the students in your house if you want to prepare them to be happy and successful adults.

Let them fall

Letting your children fall is the only way they will learn how to get back up. That doesn’t mean you should abandon them. Be there to offer comfort and support, and to let them know you believe in them.

If you have ever been on a ski hill, you will know that falling is easier when you are five than when you are fifty.

Remind yourself that everyone has their own path

Your path won’t be the same as that of your children. Don’t assume what worked for you will work for them.

It is common for parents to believe their children can learn from the mistakes they made when they were younger. This isn’t true.

Learning is more about the process than the outcome. It is about taking calculated risks, examining options, and recovering from unexpected results.

The goal is to learn, not just get an A.

As they learn and grow, love your children, offer different viewpoints and advice, but don’t try to prevent them from making their own decisions and living with the consequences.

Model the skills you want your children to learn

Don’t be afraid to let your family see you struggle with a problem or behave in a less than perfect way. Show them the skills and tools you use when you let your emotions get the better of your common sense.

Apologize when you know you are in the wrong. Demonstrate your courage to try something new. Let them see how you pick yourself up from a fall and carry on.

Above all, show them that there is always something new to learn about themselves and the world they live in.

Honour effort and learning above natural ability

There is a misplaced belief that by telling your children how smart they are, you will strengthen their self belief. This is not the case.

You may not say it, but by praising intelligence and sporting prowess, your children may believe that’s why you love them. There is likely to be an inner worry that you won’t love them if they don’t do well.

This puts pressure on them to succeed rather than to learn. This makes it more difficult for them to take risks and try something new.

They will take the safe route rather than the one that would make them happier or give them more opportunities to learn. Research show that children who do well in school will cheat to do even better because they are focused on the grade rather than on the process.

Instead, let your children know that life is a learning game and that some things will come more easily to them than others. School should be more about learning than the marks on a test or report card.

Praise effort and progress. Natural ability is just a starting point. Encourage your children to see where they can go if they apply hard work and determination.

Don’t compare

See each child as an individual. Everyone is on their own journey through life; it isn’t a race or a competition. Emphasize co-operation and collaboration.

Encourage your children to cheer on family and friends and to want them to do the best they can. One person’s success doesn’t minimize anyone else’s. What is success for one child may look different for another.

Don’t buy into the mistaken belief that there is only so much happiness and success to go around. There is enough for everyone to enjoy.

These principles won’t only help parents who are getting ready for another week of school routine. They will help anyone of any age.

Imagine what life would be like if everyone knew how to be robustly happy? Now that’s a world I’d love to experience.

More The Happiness Connection articles

About the Author

Reen Rose is an experienced, informative, and engaging speaker, author, and educator. She has worked for over three decades in the world of education, teaching children and adults in Canada and England.

Research shows that happy people are better leaders, more successful, and healthier than their unhappy counterparts, and yet so many people still believe that happiness is a result of their circumstances.

Happiness is a choice. Reen’s presentations and workshops are designed to help you become robustly happy. This is her term for happiness that can withstand challenge and change.

Reen blends research-based expertise, storytelling, humour, and practical strategies to both inform and inspire. She is a Myers Briggs certified practitioner, a Microsoft Office certified trainer and a qualified and experienced teacher.

Email Reen at [email protected]

Check out her websites at, or

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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