Justin Coulson's latest book 21 Days to a Happier Family has just been released. Justin was a radio broadcaster when, after starting a family with this wife, he realised he didn't have a clue how to be a parent. Justin has since earned a PhD in psychology and is now a father to six children.
Justin Coulson’s top ten parenting tips
1 Open our mouths less and our arms more
He is a parenting expert on the Kidspot website and presents talks to teachers, parents, and professionals all across Australia. We're thrilled to feature his guest post outlining his top ten parenting tips.
It’s tempting to talk at
our children. Parents do it a lot. But we rarely talk with
them. What our children need most is our listening, our support and our love. When they’re ready, they’ll seek our guidance. They need us to understand
more than they need us to reprimand
. Hugs help more than lectures – and they make our family happier.
2 Let them be little
Often our expectations of our children are greater than their developmental ability. We think that because they are walking and talking they should be able to do all sorts of things. When they fall short, we become frustrated. When our expectations and experience are mismatched, the result is disappointment. When we lower our expectations and let our children be little, the pressure is off all of us and family life becomes easier and happier.
3 Forget punishments and focus on teaching
If I could have one wish, it would be that we stop hurting our children. While it’s necessary and important that we teach our children the right way to behave, using punishment to do that teaching is not just ineffective, but harmful. Unfortunately too much of our ‘discipline’ is focused on making our children pay a price for behaviour we don’t like. This isn’t discipline. It’s punishment.
The essence of good discipline is teaching, instructing and guiding. We do this best by working with them
to problem-solve positive solutions to the challenges we deal with. And it makes families much happier.
4 Help them find the answers by themselves
The best parents recognise that giving our children all the answers might be a quick fix, but it fails to teach self-reliance, resilience or resourcefulness. Wise parents work with their children, providing scaffolding as they learn, discover and experiment to figure out ways to solve their problems and find answers to their questions.
5 You get what you focus on
When parents focus on their children’s challenging behaviour it soon becomes all that they see. But when parents focus on their children’s positives
: their strengths, their potential for excellence and other desirable qualities, they begin to see their children in a new light. You get what you focus on, so focus on what you love about your family and your family will feel more loved – and love you more.
6 Speaking softly gets results (even without a big stick)
Yelling plays a big part in most parents’ repertoires. But screaming at children does nothing to build relationships, love or kindness. (And children aren’t deaf.)
When we speak softly (with a smile) while looking into their eyes; gaining their attention by holding their hand, we create closeness and warmth in our family.
7 Let go of control
It’s normal to want to control children – and society expects us to. But too much control invites conflict and resistance. Research shows that allowing children choice leads to better outcomes – in peers, school accomplishment, decisions around alcohol and other drugs, and even technology use.
Of course, limits must still apply. But those limits are determined through conversations; working with
our children to help them determine for themselves how they should act – with our involvement and adult wisdom to help them make good decisions. Allowing choice makes families happier.
8 Read to your children
Reading to our children benefits them in so many ways, and it benefits our relationship with them. Read to them from the time they are infants, through their toddler years, into the school years and, if they’ll let you, read to your teens too! Dads in particular can have a significant influence on their children’s wellbeing just by reading them stories each day. Story time makes families happy.
9 Don’t cram too much in
While it would be wonderful to have children who get straight As and are multilingual, concert-standard musicians, this packed agenda leads to stressed-out parents and tired, over-scheduled children. Instead, let children explore, play, discover and create without a crazy timetable dictating their every move. You’ll feel better, and so will they.
Perhaps the easiest thing we can do to make our families happy is to spend time together. Happy families are built on great relationships, and relationships take time and investment. Simplify, simplify, simplify.
Our children need to know we care about them and that we are always there for them, to listen, guide and support, but also to play, laugh and cuddle.