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How do I get happy and well-behaved children?

 How do I get happy and well-behaved children? (Photo: iStock)

Hi Chris

My children are still small, and a joy. But I would like some advice on how to make sure they go on being happy. Already I can see signs of strife, and I don’t know how best to deal with it.

Happy Children

Chris says,

Hi Happy Children!

We all want our children to be happy. So it’s tempting to give them everything they ask for and to let them behave any way they like. But that just means they will watch too much TV, eat junk, stay up late, and never put their toys away.

Tolerating bad behaviour and avoiding confrontation also means that your children will do badly at school, lack social skills, have difficulty controlling their impulses, and be reluctant to accept responsibility.

It’s better to be flexible but firm. To expect them to behave well at an early age. To set simple and consistent rules, and to enforce them. To be warm towards them, while at the same time retaining your authority and staying in charge. Because children brought up like this become more socially skilled, resilient, mature and responsible.

So talk lots to your children and make your expectations clear. Be a good role model, because children pay far more attention to what you do than to what you say! Listen to them and help them to express their opinions. But also insist that they stick to your rules. Because setting limits helps children develop self-control.

None of this will be easy, of course. But stick at it, because your children will only grow up to be happy adults, with successful relationships and careers if they learn to be industrious, well-behaved and have good self-control. And children’s happiness doesn’t play any part in any of that!

You don’t want them to be unhappy, of course. But they do have to learn the rules. And that’s hard work because your children will resist you! That’s why teaching them good behaviour and insisting that they do their homework is such a struggle. But every time you do, you’re investing in their future success.

All the best,


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