Any parent can agree that being in the trenches with young children can be hard. It’s nearly impossible to keep your happy face on when your toddler throws food at you or your grade-schooler flat out refuses to clean his room. What a jerk. Thankfully, researchers have figured out what it takes to be happy in the midst of this chaos with hands-on parenting tips that will guarantee your kids won’t hate you for life.
It only takes a look around the carpool lane to see that most modern parents are stressed out and unhappy because of sleep deprivation, marital trouble and money problems. How depressing. But University of Michigan researchers swear up and down that parents can find happiness while raising crazy kids by following just nine simple steps.
1. Be old
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This is perhaps the simplest step of all. University of California Berkeley research states that parents 25 and younger have more stress when raising kids. Make sure that you are old but not too old, or your kids will hate you for that too.
2. Maintain eye contact during family dinner
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Having regular family dinner is parenting 101. Up the ante by maintaining constant eye contact with your kids during family dinner so that they get the most out of it. This will also prepare them for awkward future dates.
3. Maintain eye contact during family game night
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Family game night is just as important as family dinner, but rule No. 2 still applies. Don’t ever look away.
4. Take a vacation
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Preferably without your kids. They’ll probably hate you for this in the long run, but it’s totally worth it.
5. Choose to be happy
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Guess you can throw this entire list away because the secret to happy parenting is choosing happiness. Who knew?
6. But not too happy
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Choose to be happy, but don’t expect your kids to make you happy. If you’re both happy at the same time, bonus.
7. Do everything on your to-do list
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Psychology expert Christine Carter believes that this will make you feel accomplished and happy. It may also make you feel like your children’s slave, in which case you should refer to No. 5 as you spot wash piles of laundry and steam clean ketchup out of the carpet for the hundredth time.
8. Watch your baby smile
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Maintain eye contact while you do it.
9. Chase your kids around the block
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University of Michigan researchers found that parents are stressed about childhood obesity. Tackle this problem head-on by chasing your kids down the street after dinner every night. They will run faster if you don’t tell them why you are doing it.