Doing this one thing will make your kids happier adults, according to science

Science says happier people are raised by parents who do this one thing, according to Jeff Haden. But, I need to ask: What if the parent has no idea how to properly execute this thing?

According to a study from the University College London, they found that people who perceived their parents as less psychologically controlling and more caring as they were growing up were likely to be happier and more satisfied adults. I get that. I can see the huge advantages of having a solid, caring and warm foundation versus the mind games and emotional blackmail tactics usually employed by parents of yore and perhaps even now. Only a mother knows how to instill gnawing guilt, and a father’s disapproval can crush even the most accomplished adult.

That being said, if we the parents are the products of over-controlling parents, how can we be expected to raise happy, adult children? Would we even know how? Children learn what they live, and I, like many, learned the direct opposite of a caring and warm environment.

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So, being an avid believer in modeling behavior, I decided I needed to learn how to be happy. This seemed a rather odd goal because I didn't consider myself to be unhappy, but I wasn't necessarily happy. Sure, things were good, but I always found myself pressed for time, worried about something or rushing to do everything. My responsibilities as a mom, wife and worker always seemed to get in the way of just being happy, or more importantly, I let those things get in the way of my happiness.

The takeaway for me is that the No. 1 most important thing any parent can do to nurture their child’s happiness, contentment and confidence, is to show them not only how to do all those things, but what it looks like.

So what does happy look like? Do you know? Are you modeling happy? If you asked your children right now, “Do you think mommy and/or daddy is happy?,” you would be shocked at their answers.

Younger children tend to say their parents are happy "most of the time" with the exception of when their parents get home from work, are stuck in traffic, paying bills, shopping, getting the car fixed, fighting about money, etc.

Adolescents, on the other hand, will say their parents are never happy. “They’re always stressed out. They’re miserable because they’re broke all the time. They hate their jobs. They never laugh. They have no idea how to have fun. They don’t even smile.”

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Talk about a reality check. How do you think your children would grade you on the happiness scale?

Think about it, our children usually don't do what we tell them to do, but they always do as we do, even when they say, "I will never say that to my child" or "I will never do that with my children." I would wager big money that in 10 to 15 years, they will be doing and saying the exact same things they swore they would never do or say. And this is why it is so important to make your happiness, as the parent, your No. 1 priority.

Taking care of yourself—your physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing—is paramount to teaching your children how to value themselves. They need to see you tend to your own happiness so they will know it's OK to take time for themselves, to do whatever it is that makes them feel recharged, refreshed and happy with how they show up in the world, and more importantly, to those that matter most.

In a nutshell, your child's adulthood happiness depends on your happiness right now. The happier you are, the more energy and ease you will have to literally swaddle your child in warmth and caring. —Heidi Crux via Fairygodboss

A version of this post previously appeared on Fairygodboss, the largest career community that helps women get the inside scoop on pay, corporate culture, benefits and work flexibility. Founded in 2015, Fairygodboss offers company ratings, job listings, discussion boards and career advice.