As a psychologist and a brain expert, parents often seek out my advice for research-based tips that will help their children excel in school. However, excelling isn’t always just a matter of success. According to research completed at Harvard University, success in and of itself does not make us happy. Instead, happiness is what makes us successful. Because of this, it’s so important for parents to focus not only on helping their children excel, but to promote brain development in their children that helps them build strategies for happiness.
1. Promote Structure
Organization and routine can help children to feel safer. Behaviors that set boundaries and enforce structure for children are crucial for development. It’s important to set up an undistracted space for study and school work to help your child distinguish between work time and play time, and sticking to a consistent routine can make a huge difference. Letting your child make contributions to the schedule and rules, weighing in on when they do what, will make them feel more engaged and heard.
2. Promote Social Outlets
Setting up social outlets for students can make a difference on every level. A certain amount of social interaction can help to keep depression and anxiety at bay, making for a healthier, happier child. There’s research that shows that keeping children involved with friends and social interactions can help bolster their immune systems. Some studies even suggest having a life of socialization instead of isolation can lengthen our lifespans, so this one is a big deal for our children today and into the future.
3. Promote Fitness And Recreation
According to research, what exercise does for the body is a drop in the bucket compared to what it does for the brain. Staying active also influences mental health by flooding the brain with chemicals that actually make children feel happy and less stressed. Fitness enhances stamina and enables children to stay focused and stay on task.
4. Promote Gratitude
According to the latest brain research, writing down three things that you are grateful for every day for twenty one days can actually change the chemicals in our brains in a positive way. At BrainMatterZ we use gratitude to motivate and change the brain before we begin to change the structure of the brain. It’s a wonderful way to motivate and create a positive environment for learning.
5. Give Them Something To Look Forward To
One study showed that people who simply thought about watching their favorite movie managed to raise their endorphin levels by twenty seven percent. Having events or small treats to look forward to directs our attention to a positive place and can have real physical benefits for our bodies and minds. Whenever your children need a boost of happiness, try directing their focus towards something fun that is in the future.
6. Infuse Positivity Into Your Surroundings
You can use any number of methods to make your home a bright and positive one. Display pictures from happy family memories, stick motivational quotes up on the refrigerator, keep flowers in the house, and decorate with bright colors. Research says that a positive environment helps to bring about internal happiness.
7. Spend Money, But Not On Stuff.
When subjects of a study were given money to spend on things, the research found that the change of mood resulting from the purchases was fleeting. However, when subjects used their money to have experiences or engage socially, the positive emotions were stronger and lasted longer. When you’re investing money in your child’s recreation, focus on the producing memories and experiences rather than accruing more stuff.
8. Practice Modeling
This tip might be the most important of all. Children “live what they learn.” What they experience in their environment shapes the people they become. It’s imperative that parents model the behavior that they want to see in their children: traits like flexibility, kindness, patience and a genuine concern for others. This is especially important now in these unpredictable and challenging times.
We now know that when you improve your child’s happiness, you also make them more successful. What we have believed for years, that success brings happiness, has been disproven by the work that positive psychology and neuroscience have done. Using these tips will not only maximize your child’s performance but it can also promote happier, healthier brain development that will make for a brighter, more positive future.