Gretchen Rubin is a parent who write beautifully about her “experiments in the pursuit of happiness and good habits.” As Dads and Stepdads, we often think that we have to be firm and stern in order to succeed as parents.
Gretchen (not pictured above, BTW) challenged some of my fathering notions a few years ago when I read her tips for being more lighthearted and happy parents: less nagging, more laughing. . Her words still ring true today—and I share a few of them for you here. Consider them as you plan how to father your daughter this year.
– At least once a day, make each child helpless with laughter.
– Sing in the morning. It’s hard both to sing and to maintain a grouchy mood, and it sets a happy tone for everyone—particularly in my case, because I’m tone deaf and my audience finds my singing a source of great hilarity.
– Get enough sleep. It’s so tempting to stay up late, to enjoy the peace and quiet. But 6:30 a.m. comes fast.
– People quickly adapt to new pleasures or luxuries, so it takes a new pleasure to give them a jolt of gratification. As a result, I’ve cut back on treats and impulse buys. The ice-cream sandwich won’t be an exciting treat if it isn’t rare.
– Say “no” only when it really matters. Wear a bright red shirt with bright orange shorts? Sure. Put water in the toy tea set? Okay. Sleep with your head at the foot of the bed? Fine. Samuel Johnson said, “All severity that does not tend to increase good, or prevent evil, is idle.”
We all want a peaceful, cheerful, even joyous, atmosphere at home—but we can’t nag and yell our way to get there. It’s taking me a lot of effort to alter my parental habits, but even minor changes have made a big difference. So think about ways, like those listed above, to cut back on the shouting and to add moments of laughing, singing, and saying “yes.”
Read the rest of Gretchen’s tips here. Explore her The Happiness Project. Or buy her book Happier at Home: Kiss More, Jump More, Abandon Self-Control, and My Other Experiments in Everyday Life. You’ll be…happy…that you did!
Joe Kelly is the best-selling author of Dads and Daughters: How to Inspire, Understand, and Support Your Daughter and 5 other fathering books. He is also Co-Founder of New Moon Girls.