A popular Aussie doctor shares his thoughts on how to achieve a happier family.
Popular Aussie psychologist Dr Justin Coulson PhD was in Perth recently delivering a series of seminars and sharing his thoughts on the theme of '21 Days to a Happier Family'. I was lucky enough to see him present a free evening seminar at Ace Cinema, Midland, which was organised by the not for profit family support service, Community Link and Network (CLAN) Midland. Thanks to generous sponsorship from Midland Gate Shopping Centre, we enjoyed free drinks and popcorn on arrival too!
21 Days to a Happier Family is Justin Coulson's popular book
Dr Justin Coulson is a father of six (!!) girls, and the former radio announcer has a confident and approachable style which made the evening really enjoyable. He engaged with the audience, set short tasks that enabled everyone to engage with their neighbour and took many audience comments and contributions in his stride. Despite his PhD in positive psychology and sparkling resume packed with many TV and media credits, he wasn’t afraid to share some of his personal parenting fails and heartwarming stories of his ordinary family life. “I’ve screwed up as much as anyone in the room,” was one of his many frank admissions.
The seminar included a free bookmark!
Despite saying that family is the most important thing in our lives, very few of us have a 'plan' for it. We think that family should look like the perfect family photos in the media but Dr Coulson conceded that it rarely looks like this at all. Families are happiest when the parents are happy.
Research says that when we are unhappy, our kids are unhappy and blame themselves. The reverse is not true though…
Dr Coulson suggests that the pillars of a happy family are love, limits and laughter:
LOVE To a child, love is spelled T-I-M-E. Therefore they think that “hurry up” means “I don’t love you.”
Stop and pay attention. As parents we need to support our kids so they can “stop, look and listen”, so that a challenge doesn’t knock them for six as they “cross the road.”
If your child is younger than 7 or 8 years and they are having an emotional outburst, its not their fault. They are not developed enough to deal with this alone and they need our help and hugs.
When our kids' civil efforts to get our attention fail, they resort to being little terrors!
You can’t build a relationship with your kids while watching the clock.
Show understanding before you try and fix a negative behaviour.
HALTS - Hungry Angry Lonely Tired Stressed/Sick When any of these factors are involved, kids are most likely to act up.
Reduce pressure - we expect more of little kids than we ever have before.
Be there - If one significant adult is available to a child, they become more resilient and have better outcomes.
Discipline and punishment are both power-based.
Rules without relationships create rebellion.
Discipline should mean guidance and teaching.
Getting relationships right.
Too much correction and direction is overbearing.
Principle of discipline (from age 2-3) “Autonomy supportive parenting”
“I’d like you to do this because…”
“I feel like we’ve talked about this before."
"Can you please tell me why we don’t…?”
Essentially you get how it is, they get how it is and we try and work out an answer.
50 years of research into smacking shows it doesn’t work.
Sending a child to “time out” actually teaches them to be selfish and to think about themselves.
When we do things slowly with children, they actually become quicker over time.
Have more fun with our kids!
“Find the funny” - use accents, silly voices, whatever it takes to get silly!
Use music - upbeat playlists for the morning or a “ten minute tidy up” compilation.
Create family traditions.
Make a commitment to having fun.
Whats your plan?
Improve the love you show.
Be more effective in the limits you set.
Have more fun!
Top takeaways from the seminar
Data is consistent in confirming that having kids is actually a lousy way to find happiness! Kids do make magical meaning in our lives though.
Nature is fuel for the soul - reading and playing outside are the best indicators of future success of our children.
More information: For further information about Dr Justin Coulson’s work and to purchase the book 21 Days to a Happier Family see Justin Coulson's website.