Four parenting tips for happy, smart and healthy kids backed by research

Four parenting tips for happy, smart and healthy kids.
Four parenting tips for happy, smart and healthy kids. Photo: Getty Images

With an abundance of parenting advice out there, it's hard to know which tips to take on board.

According to various studies there's one thing to remember when raising children: to WACC your kids.

"No, I'm not saying to hit your kids," writes Eric Barker on his blog Barking Up The Wrong Tree. "WACC is a good acronym to help you keep in mind four things that come up in the research again and again."

Work on yourself

Barker says this is the advice many parenting books ignore, happy parents make happy children.

The book Raising Happiness: 10 Simple Steps for More Joyful Kids and Happier Parents, references a "substantial" link between depressed mothers and negative behaviours in children.

"Parental depression actually seems to cause behavioural problems in kids; it also makes our parenting less effective," says the book according to Barker.

Interestingly, genetics plays no part in this.

Bob Murray, PhD, author of Raising an Optimistic Child: A Proven Plan for Depression-Proofing Young Children -- for Life told Parents.com, "The research clearly shows that happy, optimistic children are the product of happy, optimistic homes, regardless of genetic makeup." 

The same can be said for stressed parents. "Parents' levels of chronic stress can seriously impact a child's development," reports Forbes.

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Autonomy

In the long run, allowing children to make their own decisions can affect how they cope later in life.

Psychotherapist Brooke Donatone writes, "If parents are navigating every minor situation for their kids, kids never learn to deal with conflict on their own."

According to The Secrets of Happy Families: Improve Your Mornings, Rethink Family Dinner, Fight Smarter, Go Out and Play, and Much More: "Scientists at the University of California and elsewhere found that kids who plan their own time, set weekly goals, and evaluate their own work build up their prefrontal cortex and other parts of the brain that help them exert greater cognitive control over their lives."

In addition, kids who choose their own extracurricular activities enjoyed school more.

Communication

The author of The Secrets of a Happy Families, Bruce Feiler, says the perfect time to communicate with your kids is over dinner. 

Speaking to Barker, Feiler says, "So number one, the first big thing to be aware of is that parents do two-thirds of the talking in that ten minutes. And that's a problem."

"So your first goal should be to flip that and let the kids do more of the talking," he says.

Feiler also recommends using this time to teach your kids a new word.

"There's a tremendous amount of evidence out there that one of the biggest determinants of success in school has to do with the size of vocabulary," he says.

If sitting down to a meal every night isn't realistic, Feiler says a joint meal once a week is enough to make a difference.

Community

It turns out religion brings greater life satisfaction, not necessarily because of how close of a connection they feel with God but because they are part of a community.

A 2010 study found, "Religious people are more satisfied with their lives because they regularly attend religious services and build social networks in their congregations."

Ten is the perfect amount of friends to have in your circle.

It's also important kids have more than just their siblings and parents in their community. 

"Studies of boys and girls find that the presence of a trusted nonparental adult increases feelings of support and life satisfaction by more than 30 per cent," Feiler wrote.

Most importantly, grandparents have a positive influence on children.

Fieler writes, "When grandparents are involved… children are more social, more involved in school, and more likely to show concern for others."