Sharing the Science that Connects Families: An Interview with Dr. Justin Coulson from Happy Families
Stance for the Family eagerly supports other organizations that strengthen and develop the family. This week Stance had the opportunity to interview Dr. Justin Coulson, owner and founder of Happy Families. Dr. Coulson, a PhD in psychology from Wollongong, Australia, presents workshops and individual coaching to thousands of parents a year, sharing with them “the science, the skills, and the heart that connect and strengthen families.” His blog presents parents with information and advice based on the latest empirical research. Here’s what Dr. Coulson had to say about his work and passion during our interview.
Stance for the Family (SftF): What can parents learn from following your blog, Happy Families? What outcomes will the information they find have in the lives of their children?
Dr. Justin Coulson (JC): The blog is really an informal way for me to share parenting tips, fun parenting ideas, and the latest interesting research about parenting with mums and dads. (Plus I share some of the cool stuff my kids get up to—and drive me crazy with—from time to time too.)
Some of the information is just for fun, but most of the info will make an impact on promoting happiness at home. Parents will find better ways to manage themselves, work with their children, and understand why things are happening the way that they are within their home and family.
SftF: What is the one biggest thing you would say to encourage parents and help them in their parenting?
JC: Most parents are, I believe, doing the very best job they can with their kids. Keep it up! But keep on looking for ways to improve. Parenting is one of those things that we’re unlikely to perfect.
And if you really want to be a great parent, remember to keep it simple. Be there for your kids. Understand their emotional world by looking into their heart. And set firm limits by working with them (not on them). More than anything, make sure they know that (1) they were wanted, (2) you were so, so happy to have them in your life when they were born, and (3) you are deeply grateful that they are your kids. If they grow up knowing those things, and you do those three simple things I mentioned, I think you can look forward to a bright, happy future with them.
SftF: Are there any parenting myths you have discovered that generally don’t work, according to research?
JC: Sure. About a year ago a study uncovered a relationship between kids being given alcohol to drink in the “safe, home environment” and their later unsafe drinking behavior. So the logic that “if I teach them how to do it safely at home they’ll do it responsibly out of the home” is actually interpreted by the kids as, “Mum and dad don’t mind if I drink, so let’s PARTY!”
Another one that I’m fascinated by (and researching more in preparation for my next book) relates to the finding that when we try to force our kids to do something, they’ll often rebel and do precisely what we don’t want them to do. For example, one study reported that the more a teenager’s friends were “forbidden,” the more likely it was that the teen would seek out opportunities to be with that friend—and engage in the same troubling behaviors the parents were worried about.
And the myth that if kids do the wrong thing then some time out or a kick-up-the-bum will fix them has been refuted so many times in so many ways I’m still amazed at how pervasive these strategies are.
SftF: Where would you recommend parents look if they want more information about parenting?
JC: Can I mention my book? I’ve recently had a book published, and I’m really excited about it. It’s called What Your Child Needs From You: Creating a Connected Family.
The book focuses on the idea that there are loads of things parents might do for their children, but only a few things that they really must do. If you can get those ‘must-do’s’ right, family life will be happier, and children will be far more likely to be secure, resilient, and balanced.
What Your Child Needs from You distils the very best parenting research from the past forty years into a simple, readable book for EVERY parent.
The book is full of personal experiences from my own family (I have five children of my own—all girls!), and it is written in very short sections so even the most tired parent can read for a minute or two and get some great ideas to implement immediately. And the book has been kept short, so it’s not intimidating. The examples and stories in the book are ‘real’, and they relate to all families—none of this ‘perfection parenting’ stuff that doesn’t exist in normal families.
Justin Coulson’s book, What Your Child Needs from You, can be purchased from Amazon here. You can keep up to date on his parenting tips by following him on Facebook or his blog, Happy Families.
Praise for What Your Child Needs from You:
“One of the most thoughtful, intelligent discussions of parenting. I found myself nodding my head in agreement, talking to friends and family about passages, and immediately applying techniques. A fantastic resource for the most difficult and meaningful part of our lives.” – Professor Todd B. Kashdan (George Mason University psychology professor and author of Curious).
“This wise, insightful, engaging book is one of the best parenting books I have ever read! I recommend it to you wholeheartedly.” – Professor H. Wallace Goddard (parenting author and professor of family life, University of Arkansas).
“This is an important book on arguably the most important topic of all. Justin does a fantastic job of distilling the latest parenting research into readable and practical words of advice moms and dads so desperately want and need.” – Professor Tim Sharp (“Dr. Happy,” clinical psychologist, director of The Happiness Institute, and author of several books).
“I love the way this book is written—very practical, very focused on parent issues, and at the same time, very humble. Justin is not saying, “Do as I say because I’m the expert,” but rather, “Here are some ideas that seem to work. What do you think?” It’s practical, easy to read, well referenced, and covers so many of the day-to-day topics that parents agonise about. It’s also well presented in case studies, summary points, quotes… and everything to make this book an eminently readable and sensible addition to any parent’s library.” – Dr. John Irvine (clinical psychologist, author, and parenting expert).