Discussion: helping your child have a happy childhood

Sandra writes:

"I have a question; it's a rather "heavy" one because it doesn't address a day-to-day issue, it's more about parenting in general. My son is one year old now. Ever since I got pregnant, I've been looking back at my own childhood in an evaluating manner. How happy was I as a kid, and what can I do to make my son at least as happy, and if possible, happier? This is a thing that I want to work very, very hard on as a parent: helping my son to have a happy childhood. Not happy as in 'spoilt', but happy as in 'I had a wonderful time when I was a kid, and this happy childhood empowers me as a human being'. I know that positive experiences and memories about youth depend on all kinds of aspects, many of them unrelated to parenting decisions. A sibling, your spouse, or you could become ill or die. Your kids could have an accident. They can have awful experiences at school (bullies...). Well, so many bad things can happen. Good things as well, of course But, I'm sure there's a lot you can do as a parent. Based on my own (positive or negative) experiences as a kid, I've come up with a few guidelines myself:

- offer your kid as much room to explore and experiment as possible, within safe but loose boundaries;
- keep trying to understand, know, appreciate and love your child just the way he/she is (even when he/she seems to makes horrible decisions or turns out to have very different opinions from you);
- be extremely clear about boundaries, expected chores, rules; be very communicative and open about them (don't "assume" that your kid will do something in a specific way if you're not clear about it); say 'thank you' often enough.

I'm curious about other people's ideas about this. Especially people who do look back upon a happy childhood. What were the key things your parents did, or decided, that made your childhood so happy? Any ideas?"

I think I had a happy childhood, and what I remember about it that made it happy was that things were mostly pleasant in my house. My mom and dad didn't fight in front of us (a little bickering, yes, but that was more like a sport than something unpleasant), we had family mealtimes as much as we could, and I just felt like my parents were happy we were there.

That Maya Angelou quote (and Lord Google isn't giving me anything exact) about the most important thing for children being that your eyes light up when they come into the room rang really true for me. My mom still sounds absolutely delighted when I call her, even if I was talking to her 30 seconds earlier and lost the signal and had to call back.

I think you have some wonderful ideas about creating a happy childhood, and that those things are important for creating a feeling of safety and security in a child.

What do the rest of you think? Have you been intentional about facilitating happy childhoods for your kids? What have you identified as the crucial elements?