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Parenting Programme: How to have Happy Kids

The aim of the 4 weeks is to help parents think and talk about their role in
bringing up happy children, and what children need to grow up to be well

The facilitator’s role is to make everyone feel welcome and included, guide
the discussion, broadly keep it on track, acknowledge differences but ask
challenging questions.

Be creative. Activities and questions for each week are set out, but you could
use many different approaches and exercises to get people talking about the
subject. Find things you are comfortable with.

Be flexible. It is difficult to separate out the different aspects of caring for

children, and you will find you are talking about some aspects of week 3 in
week 2 etc. This does not matter – it is often good to repeat things, using
different examples, and it is useful to follow up interesting questions that the
parents raise (within reason!).

Know the aim. The main thing is for the facilitator to have a clear idea of what
they want to achieve overall and in each session. If they have they can almost
always bring the subject back on track e.g. asking ‘what is the child learning
from that, what message are you giving’.

Week 1 – Looks at what we want our children to be like when they are grown
up and the part we play in getting them there

Week 2 – starts looking at the things children need to be happy, by thinking

about Love and how our children know we love them

Week 3 – looks at the other main thing children need to be happy: a sense of
security and predictability, and how we can provide this

Week 4 – considers other things children need, particularly opportunities to

learn and achieve, but also a sense of identity, the ability to communicate with
Aim: to think about what we want our children to be like when they are grown
up and the part we play in getting them there.
Key concepts to get across:
Parent’s task is to help children grow up well – and this is a difficult task
Children learn from what we do and say, how we act and respond to them

Drawing of the parent’s role

What do you want your child to be like when they are grown up?

Write up the answers. Things you want to elicit: honest, caring, respectful,
able to make good decisions, satisfying job, good relationships, happy

Ask people for more information or explanation, prompt

e.g. what do you mean by well behaved – Polite? Not in trouble with police?
why is having a good job important – money? Respect/status? satisfaction?

Challenge – What is more important, having a good job or being happy?

What is more important, good relationships or good job?
What if your son set his heart on being a ballet dancer?
What would happen if you forced your child into a good job they
did not like?
Recap – so we want our children to be honest, kind, trusting, confident, make
good decisions, have good friends, have a good job, be respectful etc.

KEY QUESTION : How do children learn to be like this?

Answer: Mostly By copying you, learning from you

Also By watching other people and Through us/teachers explaining

Give Examples/demonstrate/discuss: what is the child learning….

- demonstrate hitting a child while saying ‘Don’t hit your sister’…
- a child accidentally breaks your favourite cup and comes to tell you.
What do you say? What is the child learning? What will help them be
- The child hears their father swearing at someone
- Someone promises to take the child to the park but then does not
- People are constantly telling the child they are a nuisance/stupid/naughty

Conclusion – everything the parent says and does carries a message

Week 2
starts looking at the things children need to be happy, by thinking about Love.
Aim is to think about how we show love.
Key idea is that we show love through giving time and attention, and loving
touch/voice/eye contact
And children need attention – so they will get it whatever way they can

Week 1 we looked at what we want children to be like when they are grown up
and how we can help them get there. Most of all we want children to be happy.

KEY QUESTION – what do children need to be happy?

Write up – [Usually you very quickly get the answer] Love

KEY QUESTION – how do your children know you love them? What do we
mean by love?

Write up suggestions:
Tell them have fun, enjoy being with them

Cuddle them

Buy them things

Play with them

Question and discuss

How important is buying them things? Can a child feel loved if they are not
bought things? unloved if they are bought everything?

If you had a friend who kept saying that they did not want to meet you, what
would you think?

Can you give a child too much time and attention?

[probably – it is good if they can learn to play by themselves, and it is good for
them to learn that the parent has their own needs and wishes sometimes]
Key Question: What happens if the child is not getting the attention they

Why is it sometimes difficult to give children time?

Key Question: Is it important that parents get time for themselves?
Does they get time for themselves? What do people do to have some time out
for themselves? What benefit for the parent? What benefit for the child?
Week 3
Continues thinking about what children need to be happy.
Is love enough?
Key idea is that children need to feel safe to be relaxed and able to enjoy life.
And children feel safe through predictability
It does not matter (within reason) what rules and routines you choose to have,
what is important is that they stay the same over time, so things are predictable

Recap on week 2
Children need love to feel valued. What else do they need?

Key Question: How do we help children feel safe and secure?

routines knowing what will happen

things being the same knowing what is expected

Security -
knowing someone is Feeling safe no aggression, conflicts
looking after them and being sorted out
in charge

Do you have a bedtime routine? Do you have mealtime routines?
Why are rules important? Picture of the sheep….
Do you have ‘rules’ about what you expect?
Examples; do you allow your child to take food from the fridge?
Do you expect them to take their shoes off when they come in?

What happens if you change the rules from day to day?

Example – bouncing on the sofa is allowed one day, then the child is shouted at
for it the next day.

Key Question: What happens if the child does not feel safe, if things are
not predictable?
Anxiety – and if you are anxious you can’t learn
Curious – testing things out to see if there is a pattern to expectations
Keep checking to see what is what … clarifying mixed messages
e.g. keep asking if they can have an icecream – does no really mean no?
If no means yes once, then they will keep asking.

Think about your childhood – how did you feel if your parents/family argued.
What helps the child feel safe? – arguments repaired, reassured that things OK
Week 4
Focusing on other things children need to feel happy.
Key idea: we feel happy when we are learning and achieving and making new
relationships. Mastering new skills, managing new experiences gives
Other key ideas: importance of a sense of identity/belonging/community/

Recap on what children need to be happy – love and security. What else?
Some excitement, achievement, new experiences, growing up

Key Question: How do we help children feel they are learning and

Encourage independence & responsibility playgroup, school

new experiences/places learning new things

Opportunities and new skills
meeting new people to learn and
grow giving choices
fantasy play

Why is this important?

Key Question: What happens if a child does not have these opportunities?
How do you know if the opportunities are appropriate?
What is the right amount of independence? Of responsibility?
How much choice should you give?

Examples: too much responsibility, too little independence

Giving choices. Helping children make decisions for themselves and accept the
consequences. Too many choices, too few

Examples of encouragement, building confidence….

Other concepts: IDENTITY: how we think about ourselves & who we are
Key idea is that identity is formed through communication with others ,
including subtle non verbal communication, the media
Key question: Where does your identity come from?
- from what people say about you and how you internalise this, from your
understanding of your place in the family, the cultural and religious beliefs and
practices the family pass on to you, the family’s place in the community, the
way the community treats you and portrays you

Key question: What can parents do to give their child a positive identity?
Other ideas to incorporate

1. The emotional bank account

Sometimes we have to tell children off, sometimes we shout when we
shouldn’t, or we ignore the child when they need attention.
The concept of the emotional bank account is helpful – we put in experiences
of love, fun, time when we can, to counterbalance the times when we can’t.

2. Using star charts.

Star charts are a way of encouraging the child to behave as we want, and
making sure we give attention to that behaviour. There are key things to make
star charts successful:
- be specific about the behaviour you want. Not just ‘being good’, but
‘finishing your tea’, or ‘not teasing your sister’, or ‘not swearing’
- choose one behaviour to focus on at a time
- break the day down/set the expectations so that they are achievable. If
you make it too difficult the child will give up.
- Build rewards in so that its not too easy but not too hard to get them
- Rewards of time and attention can be more rewarding than money or
toys – they give a strong message about what you value most - and
should be in proportion to the achievement.

3. Consequences for behaviour: punishments

What are appropriate consequences?
Discuss the effectiveness of smacking – what is the child learning? Does it
work? What happens if it becomes ineffective – do you hit harder?
Does it help build a positive, cooperative relationship?

Ideas of time out – one minute for each year of age

Also time in – for some children (e.g. insecure ones) time out feels very
rejecting and punitive. Time in is saying ‘you have to stay right here with me
for five minutes’, so it is restricting but not rejecting.

What is important is that the relationship is mended quickly after an upset – so

they feel loved and accepted, as well as learning what behaviour is not