Recently, I've noticed a few stories on the internet that say there are scientifically proven ways to raise happy kids. At first, I was relieved to read this, since I feel much better taking advice from people in white lab coats than from my usual source: that random mom on the playground who told me my kid would certainly end up in jail someday because I let her have a cheeseburger.
But then I started reading the findings and, out of the five scientifically proven ways I came across, I realized I really only followed one of them. Are my kids doomed? Let's find out!
1. Go to work
Science: Moms who worked outside the home were more likely to have daughters who were more educated, had better jobs and earned more money. Furthermore, sons of mothers who work make better husbands!
Me: I've worked while my kids were growing up, but never full-time and never out of the house. In fact, if anyone was keeping track, I've probably spent more hours making lunches, removing gum from hair and sewing Halloween costumes than working on my career. As for those sons of working moms who make great husbands—I'm hoping researchers will be willing to share those names and numbers in a few years.
As for those 80 minutes of slumber (the kids) lost, who cares when you can go to preschool with a delicious tuna hand-roll in your belly?
2. Put them to bed early
Science: Research shows that putting your kids to bed "with the sun" bodes well for physical, emotional and cognitive development. Toddlers who went to bed before 9 p.m. slept almost 80 minutes more than those with a later bedtime.
Me: Sorry, scientists, we failed this one too. My husband and I (both creatives) had a hard time sticking to a consistent bedtime schedule. He worked late hours at his advertising job, which meant that eating together as a family often happened at 7:30 or 8 p.m. unless we all went out to dinner (which was often). So, while most toddlers were being tucked into their beds, we'd be strapping ours into their high chairs at our favorite restaurant. As for those 80 minutes of slumber that they lost, who cares when you can go to preschool with a delicious tuna hand-roll in your belly?
3. Lock up your cell phone
Science: Experts caution that excessive use of your cell phones can interrupt the relationship with your children and cause them to act out, suppress their feelings and exhibit aggressive behavior.
Me: We may have dodged a bullet on this one, since when my kids were little, my lowly flip phone didn't allow me to be distracted by checking my emails, texting or watching the latest episode of "The Sopranos." But even as they grew up, we never had a "no cell phones" policy for us or them and we certainly never had to resort to locking up our phones. Although, I do agree that my phone usage causes them to exhibit aggressive behavior: They get really pissed when I threaten to call 911 if they haven't returned my texts within two minutes.
4. Sing to your kids
Science: Psychiatrists at Stanford University School of Medicine found that hearing their moms' voices helped children’s social communication skills, and contributed to later educational success and emotional well-being.
Me: Bingo! I finally did something right. I'm no Adele, but I did spend a lot of time singing lullabies and TV show theme songs repeatedly to my girls. I guess science was right on this one—they did well in school and are pretty even-keeled emotionally. Although, they do get unusually upset when I get the clapping wrong in the "Friends" theme song.
5. Run around with them
Science: Researchers say that active moms have active kids, who are, in turn, healthier overall.
Me: Most of the exercise I did with my kids centered around walking to Starbucks or running to school because we had overslept again. But our philosophy was always "an active mind equals a healthy kid," so what we lacked in exercise we made up for in trips to the museum, concerts and the library. They managed to fit in exercise on their own as they got older, though. You'd be impressed how quickly they can sprint in and out of Starbucks with my coffee order.
Like all scientific studies, it helps to study the results. My girls are 19 and 21 now, and in spite of turning up my nose at the researchers and experts, so far they've turned out great and by all accounts are pretty darn happy. I'm not knocking science, but just suggesting there are many different ways to raise happy kids. You can even go ahead and let them have that cheeseburger.