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9 Ways to Be a More Cheerful Parent

I guide my life with 12 personal commandments, and one is “Lighten up.” This year, I have several goals aimed at becoming a more lighthearted parent, including less nagging and more laughing. We all want a peaceful, cheerful, even joyous atmosphere at home—but we can’t complain and yell our way to get there.

Here are some strategies that help me:

1. Make each child helpless with laughter. Try to do this at least once a day.

2. Sing in the morning. It’s hard to sing and maintain a grouchy mood, and it sets a happy tone for everyone.

3. Get enough sleep. It’s so tempting to stay up late to enjoy the peace and quiet after the kids go to bed. But morning comes fast, and you’ll be cranky without enough rest.

4. Wake up before your kids. My family was so rushed in the morning that I started getting up half an hour before my children. That means I can get myself organized, check email, post to my blog and get my bag packed all before they get up. It can be tough to wake up earlier, but it has made a huge difference in the quality of our mornings.

 5. Try to cast answers as “Yes.” So many messages to kids are negative: “Stop,” “Don’t,” “No.” Instead of saying, “We’re not leaving until you’ve finished eating,” try something like, “Yes, we’ll go as soon as you’ve finished eating.”

6. Look for little ways to celebrate. For minor holidays, we have special breakfasts. We use color placemats, some food dye in the milk, a table decoration and throw in some seasonal candy. These meals are quick, fun and everyone gets a big kick out of them.

7. Say “No” only when it really matters. Your daughter wants to use a different color of nail polish on every finger? Fine. Samuel Johnson said, “All severity that does not tend to increase good, or prevent evil, is idle.”

8. I remind myself how fleeting this is. All too soon the age of strollers, magic markers and science projects will be over. The days are long, but the years are short.

9. Be a treasure house of happy memories. To me, this means keeping a few special things and getting rid of everything else! It makes me happy to be reminded of good memories, and it makes me very unhappy to be overwhelmed by clutter. Mementos work best when they’re carefully curated. For my two daughters, I bought a fancy file box. I have a file for each year, and I add keepsakes like the girls’ birth announcements, birthday invitations, school photos, my sister’s wedding invitation, our family Valentine’s Day cards, etc. This is a painless way to keep special documents in good order.
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