What makes babies happy may surprise you. Child development experts who study the subject say that happiness isn’t something you give babies – it’s something you teach them.
“The best predictors of happiness are internal, not external,” says Hallowell, author of The Childhood Roots of Adult Happiness, who stresses the importance of helping kids develop a set of inner tools they can rely on throughout life. Hallowell, a psychiatrist, also mentioned that over-indulged children – whether showered with toys or shielded from emotional discomfort – are more likely to grow into teenagers who are bored, cynical, and joyless.
The good news is you don’t have to be an expert in child psychology to impart the inner strength and wisdom it takes to weather life’s ups and downs. With patience and flexibility, any parent can lay the groundwork for a lifetime of happiness.
- Learn to read your baby’s Emotion
As your child matures from a newborn to a more interactive baby by the age of 6 months, he’ll become a master at showing you when something makes him content or upset. His face lights up in a heart-melting smile when you enter the room, or he wails when someone takes away his favorite toy. And you’ve probably noticed that he flips between smiling and crying faster than you can pop a pacifier in his mouth. Sometimes, If it seems your baby spends more time wailing than giggling, that’s because babies actually experience distress earlier than happiness. Crying and distressed facial expressions are there for a reason,. They serve as an SOS to motivate the mum or caregiver to fix whatever’s wrong. Your baby probably has his own ways of showing you when he’s not content. Some babies may cry, while others become clingy. As you get to know your own child’s temperament, you’ll become better at learning the signs that something’s not right in his world.
- Help Your Baby Develop new skillsBaby Secret Keepers need to hear this – Happy people are often those who have mastered a skill. For example, when your baby figures out how to get the spoon into his mouth or takes those first shaky steps by himself, he learns from his mistakes, he learns persistence and discipline, and then he experiences the joy of succeeding due to his own efforts.He also reaps the reward of gaining recognition from others for his accomplishment. Most important, he discovers he has some control over his life: If he tries, he can do it.
- Teach your baby to share and care research shows that people who have meaning in their lives feel less depressed. As your baby matures, she can be taught – even in small ways – how satisfying it is to help others.
Even as early as 10 months, you can teach your child the satisfaction of giving and take. If you give her a bite of banana, let her do the same by feeding you a piece. If you brush her hair, give her a chance to brush yours. Show her how happy her generosity made you feel.
These small moments can nourish a sensibility toward sharing and caring for others. As your baby grows into a toddler, simple household chores, such as putting her dirty clothes in the hamper or setting the table, can help a young child feel that she’s making a contribution.
- Be a role model to your babyAccording to Dora Wang, assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine and mother of 3-year-old Zoe, research shows that you can pass on your temperament to your child – not necessarily through your genes – but through your own behavior and childrearing style.
For better or worse, children pick up on their parents’ moods. Even young babies imitate their parents’ emotional style, which activates specific neural pathways in the brain.
In other words, when you smile, your baby smiles and his brain becomes “wired” for smiling. Similarly, if you have a colicky baby who cries for hours, the best thing for you to do is to stay calm, because babies pick up on their caregivers’ stress.
With a new baby, it’s normal to feel tired, overwhelmed, and even a little blue. But if you find yourself constantly stressed out or depressed, it’s important to seek help.
- Offer Interesting things to look atKeeping toys and mobiles with strongly contrasting colors (black, red, white) will help keep a baby’s attention and stimulate his developing sense of vision. Brightly colored pictures, contrasting patterns, and things that move are entertaining for a baby to look at.
The newborn baby’s visual sense is still developing, and he’s able to best focus on things 8–12 inches (20.3–30.5 cm) from his face. Farther away, his vision will be blurry. You can also hold an object in front of your baby’s face and slowly move it back and forth. The baby’s gaze will likely follow the object happily.
Babies enjoy looking at themselves, so you can offer a mirror for the baby to gaze at her own reflection. Choose one for children, which are made from durable and safe materials, rather than glass. Remember that your face is also an “interesting object” for your baby, and will be one of your newborn’s favorite toys.
- Sing songs to your BabyYour voice will be the most soothing sound for your baby early on. Babies and infants love repetition too, so making little musical sounds over and over will be very entertaining. For example, repeat the baby’s name in a “sing-songy” voice, pitching your voice first high, then low.Rocking your baby as you sing will make the activity more engaging for the baby. Whatever you sing frequently to your baby will help soothe and entertain him during fussy times. If you know how to sing traditional childhood lullabies, you’ll be more entertained, but know that babies will be happy to hear your voice singing or humming anything.