5 things you can do as a parent to make an immediate positive impact on your kids. And yourself. Win, win.
1. Hug them more. Seriously, studies show that the boost a hug gives a child (or, really, anybody) gives a boost of oxytocin that not only makes a person feel happier, but they also feel more secure and at ease. The effects are immediate and lasting. Not only that, but longitudinal studies of children also show that adults who were regularly hugged as children are happier and more satisfied adults, too. So happy kid and happy adult.
2. Use positive discipline. Remember this - discipline is not punishment but rather the process of teaching proper behavior. This is not just semantics. Truly, using discipline as a tool to help teach your children proper behavior is an effective way to gain behavior change. As you talk to them about what they did wrong, tell them, too, what they did right. Put your hand on their shoulder and give them a hug at the end of the conversation to ensure them that, even if you are not pleased with their behavior, you still love them. If your children hit their sister or brother, hug them both and explain how hugging feels better than hitting. Take the time to talk about what they can do next time that might be a better choice. Give them the tools and time they need to own a different behavior. Invest the time now and you will both reap the benefits later.
3. Have confidence in what you are doing. Know that you are a good mom/dad. You are a good parent. You make a difference. You are also setting a great example for how amazingly effective a good parent can be, and your kids see the benefit of having a present and emotionally available parent. Your kids respect you. All of this is laying the groundwork for your amazing child to become an amazing adult as they do their best to emulate the qualities you emanate. And remember, if you are hard on yourself, constantly (or regularly) criticizing yourself, this will wreak havoc on your peace of mind, and hike up your stress levels. An anxious parent leads to an anxious kid.
4. Laugh more. "You don't stop laughing because you grow old, you grow old because you stop laughing."~Michael Pritchard. Why would you grow old before your time? Be with people you enjoy. Be with little people more. Be with pets more. Make an effort to find the joy in your life, in your situation, in your current moment. If this is not your normal MO, then fake it, and it will very quickly become a very good-for-you habit that benefits you AND those around you.
5. Put the phone/computer down and do something your kids love to do. Yes, I know. Nerf gun battles and PS4 games are not necessarily my cup of tea, but my boys love it, and what's more, they love it when I do it with them. Maybe because then they automatically have someone to whom they are comparatively more skilled, maybe it's because my comments and take on the activity are so different (and apparently amusing) to them. But more importantly, I am doing something they like to do, spending quality time, rather than making them do something I like to do. Just because I am bigger than they are (so far) doesn't mean that I always get to dictate what the activity of the day will be. And, believe it or not, oftentimes after I do something they like doing, they will be much more likely to do what I like to do. So, again, win win.
Remember this: ‘The smallest act of kindness is worth more than the grandest intention.” ~ Oscar Wilde. Don't just mean to be kind, good, and present. Be kind, good and present. Give your kids the gifts that only you can: your time, your love, and your presence.