Motherly Collective

One of the many essential jobs that we have as parents is understanding how to increase a child’s joy. Upon noticing the declining enthusiasm of my nine-year-old daughter, I realized that she needed something to look forward to that wasn’t necessarily structured into her day-to-day. So I brainstormed some ways to incorporate a little more joy into my children’s life—and hope these tips are a great start to help others, too.

Related: How parental affection shapes a child’s lifelong happiness

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Ways to increase a child’s joy

1. Make every day a National holiday

Children anticipate holidays that are the most outwardly celebrated. But those holidays only come once every few months, with an exception of the holidays—the super indulgent salad of Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years and a few others. For adults, by the end of the season, we may feel depleted—but there’s no reason to stop the party. There are 365 days of the year, and they all have National holidays—although lesser known and not widely celebrated. A quick internet search to nationaltoday.com brings up a daily list of opportunities to celebrate lesser-known holidays. As an example, September 22 is not just Fall Equinox, but also National Ice Cream Cone Day (though the ice cream may be more preferably celebrated!).

2. Raise with praise

In our children’s baby and toddler years, praise for every little success becomes a habit. We’re excited for their milestone moments, but forget that our older children have milestones as well. It may be an expectation that our child gets good grades, but do we stop for a moment and acknowledge the fine details of their success—such as the spelling test where they’ve spelled a difficult word, or when they’ve figured out a problem on their own? Offering praise is not coddling, but encouraging.  It shows that we notice their strengths and achievements and motivates them beyond the significance of a grade.  

3. Adopt a playful parenting style

We’re often cautioned as parents not to become our child’s friend, but rather the responsible, overseeing adult with more disciplinary action than companionship. Later on down the line, we wonder why our children consult our company less as they age. In creating our children’s independence, we should also ensure that they feel our trust, support and our relatable youthful side doesn’t have an expiration date. 

How many times have we sat on the floor to play with our kids, did an art project unrelated to school, tried to enjoy their music, and for the older kids, felt inclined to check out the newest young adult fiction series and engage with their interest? We should believe that there can be a common ground between being a parent that enforces good behavior and a companion that enjoys our children’s company.

Related: Teaching your child the art of happiness

4. Create common goals

We all have independent ambitions and challenges, but there is usually an extra push when done as a team. Creating long-term and short-term goals with our children to work towards every day builds a bond as well as self-accountability. Long-term goals could be something as grand as a family trip that can be achievable by earnings based on good grades, consistent upkeep of chores or small gigs where even kids can attain a work ethic. Short-term goals could be a home project, exercising several days a week or learning something new together that may take a few days of practice. It’s an opportunity to be committed to achieving—and where commitment is, trust, determination and communication are strengthened.  

5. Validate their emotions

Emotions may be all over the place and repetitive with toddlers to the point that tantrums have the potential to be regarded as background noise. But what if we acknowledged them the way we want our conflicting feelings to be validated? Our older children may have brick walls surrounded by an electric fence, yet what if they were assured that we are continuously standing guard ready to answer their call for help? 

Sometimes as adults, we are holding on to so much of our own stress that we’re unable to keep ourselves together when addressing the emotions of children who may not even know how to grasp their own. However, this is a prime opportunity to create a safe space for communication. Being honest as parents about our own vulnerabilities encourages our children to be expressive of how they feel in ways that are positive and constructive. Those bad days and moments where we lapse in judgment don’t usually define us, nor should they define our children. Here’s a teachable moment to be actively engaged in managing emotions, which may help to include the other four ways to add joy above.  

Related: 5 ways to help parents raise happy kids (that aren’t gifts)

There are many more ways to incorporate joy into your children’s day-to-day regime. However, the underlining factor is your involvement as a parent. The willingness to approach your child’s needs in a way that allows them to grow and thrive can make most mundane days start and end with a smile.  

This story is a part of The Motherly Collective contributor network where we showcase the stories, experiences and advice from brands, writers and experts who want to share their perspective with our community. We believe that there is no single story of motherhood, and that every mother's journey is unique. By amplifying each mother's experience and offering expert-driven content, we can support, inform and inspire each other on this incredible journey. If you're interested in contributing to The Motherly Collective please click here.