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Harvard and Yale Experts Share 3 Life-Changing Tips for Parents


If you’re scratching your head about how to ensure your child grows up happy, you’re not alone. Luckily, renowned happiness gurus Laurie Santos from Yale and Arthur Brooks from Harvard have some eye-opening advice that could change the parenting game for you.

1. Emotions are Like Weather. Why It’s Okay for Kids to Have Rainy Days

You have probably been there—your child is upset, and your immediate reaction is to offer a toy, a treat, or a fun activity to lighten the mood. While this might result in a quick fix, it doesn’t really solve the underlying issue. According to Laurie Santos, a psychology professor at Yale University, this approach can prevent your child from learning a critical lesson: it’s perfectly normal to experience negative emotions.

The Importance of Emotional Resilience

Emotional resilience is the ability to cope with life’s ups and downs, a skill that is invaluable throughout one’s life. Santos suggests that children can start learning this as early as their toddler years. By avoiding the urge to immediately “fix” your child’s negative emotions, you give them the opportunity to experience these feelings and to understand that they will pass, much like how weather changes.

To make this concept relatable to children, Santos recommends using the weather as an analogy. Just like weather has sunny, rainy, and stormy days, our emotional state varies too. It’s essential to teach kids that these emotional shifts are a natural part of life, and experiencing them is not only okay but also an opportunity to grow and learn about themselves.

2. The Right Way to Talk About Life’s Dangers

Arthur Brooks, a Harvard University professor, warns parents about the dangers of instilling excessive fear in their children. The problem with always preparing your child for the worst-case scenario is that it can make them excessively anxious, hindering their ability to engage in healthy risk-taking behaviors that are crucial for development.

A Balanced Approach to Safety

Brooks advises parents to educate their children on specific, likely risks instead of scaring them with every possible danger. For example, teaching your child not to talk to strangers is practical advice, but telling them that every stranger could harm them might cause unnecessary anxiety.

Be Realistic, Not Pessimistic

It’s vital to balance precaution with optimism. Brooks and his wife counter their daughter’s growing pessimism by sharing factual, positive insights about the world. They try to focus on concrete ways in which the world is, on balance, a good and improving place.

3. Happiness Starts at Home

Both Brooks and Santos agree that happiness is not an isolated experience; it’s a contagious state of being. If you’re in a good mood, your positive emotional state can have a ripple effect, influencing those around you, including your children.

Be Mindful of Your Emotional State

If you’re consistently stressed or anxious, that emotional state can transfer to your children, affecting their sense of well-being. Santos advises parents to practice self-compassion and regulate their own emotional health as a preliminary step to foster happiness in their children.

A Purposeful Injection of Joy

According to Brooks, one of the most effective strategies to improve your family’s overall happiness is to deliberately introduce positive elements into family interactions. Whether it’s through family meals, shared activities, or simply spending quality time together, being a positive role model for your children can have a lasting impact on their emotional health.

Insights for Parents

Are we parenting all wrong when it comes to our children’s happiness? By embracing this advice, you could unlock a world of happiness for your children that lasts a lifetime.

Written by
Nina LeBeau

Nina is a certified mediator with a background in psychology. She covers a wide range of topics from emotional well-being to stress management for the entire family.