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Home > Popular Stories > > 8 Ways to Cultivate Happiness in Your Child

8 Ways to Cultivate Happiness in Your Child

Nurturing optimism in yourself and your family.

1. Change Negative Self-Talk

Positive thinking often starts with changing negative self-talk, that endless stream of unspoken thoughts that run through your head. Some of your self-talk comes from logic and reason. Other self-talk may arise from misconceptions that you create because of lack of information.

Before parents can teach this to their children they need to think positively themselves. Become aware of your self-talk and work on changing your negative mindset to a positive one.

Some examples:

Negative Mindset Positive Mindset
I’ve never done it before. It’s an opportunity to learn something new.
It’s too complicated. I’ll tackle it from a different angle.
I don’t have the resources. Necessity is the mother of invention.
I’m too lazy to get this done. I wasn’t able to fit it into my schedule but can re-examine my priorities.
There’s no way it will work. I can try to make it work.
It’s too radical a change. Let’s take a chance.
No one bothers to communicate with me. I’ll see if I can open the channels of communication.
I’m not going to get any better at this. I’ll give it another try.

2. No More Labels:

We often fall into the trap of labeling children and placing them in roles. It gives us a false sense of control thinking we have them figured out. “She is the stubborn one,” “He is so bossy,” “That one is so slow,” “Forget about him, he will always be disorganized.” The fact is everyone has positive and negative traits.

If we only focus on the negative, even in a joking way, we reinforce the negative behavior and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. A child acting stubbornly, who is told, “You are so stubborn!” will persist in that behavior.

We can reinforce positive behavior in a “stubborn child” or any child labeled negatively by:

  • Find a positive label. Even a euphemism, i.e., “determined” or “committed” or “focused” in place of “stubborn” can change how we view a child and can have a positive impact behaviorally.
  • Start reinforcing positive behavior using a positive label.

Negative Labels

Positive Labels


expresses needs






angry and hurt



3. Unconditional Love:

Parents need to let their children know that they are loved without reservation – regardless of their school performance and behavior. Adults can discipline a child and work to improve their misbehavior while still sending the message of unconditional love:

  • “I love you, but I don’t like this behavior you’re showing me.”

4. Point Out Child’s Positive Behaviors or Strengths:

Train yourself to focus on our child’s positive attributes instead of their negative ones. We can say things like:

  • “You acted safely. You held my hand in the street.”
  • “You listened. I asked you to take out a book and you did.”
  • “I appreciated your help today. The laundry needed to get done and you did it.”

5. Share the Positive in your Day:

Talk about the great things that you did together:

  • “I had such a great time with you today. Teaching you to ride a bicycle with training wheels was so much fun!”
  • “I know school can be tough sometimes, but I hope you can see how much you are learning and how much you enjoy reading new stories, and gym class.”

6. Talk about the Things You Enjoy:

  • “I love taking nature walks with you. You pointed out all these interesting leaves and flowers!”
  • “I am reading such a good book. It is hard for me to put it down. There is nothing like a good book to relax you!”

7. Express your Positive Feelings

  • “I love giving you kisses and hugs at bedtime.”
  • “I am so happy! I just finished all my cooking for the holidays. I feel very accomplished!”
  • “I am delighted with all the work we accomplished in therapy today.”

8. Ask Children to Find the Positives

  • “What was the best thing about school today?”
  • “Can you tell me one good thing that happened to you today?”

Some people are born with an optimistic and positive nature, while others are not. You can help cultivate an upbeat attitude in your child that will build authentic happiness, prevent depression and foster resilience.

About the Author:

Adina Soclof, MS. CCC-SLP, is the Director of Parent Outreach for A+ Solutions, facilitating “How to Talk so Kids will Listen and Listen so Kids will Talk” workshops as well as workshops based on “Siblings Without Rivalry.” Adina also runs and is available for speaking engagements. You can reach her and check out her website at or


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