Stance: Studies on the Family

Brigham Young University Student Journal

Tag: parenting (page 2 of 2)

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Sharing the Science that Connects Families: An Interview with Dr. Justin Coulson from Happy Families

by Alissa Strong

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).

Infertility: Do You Have a Story?

by Alissa Strong


Today by chance, I came across a blog. The author is a girl totally unknown to me, although we attend the same university. Her story piqued my interest specifically because it involves a topic that is almost the elephant-in-the-room in not just our university but in society.


This girl is twentysomething years old and suffers from infertility.


This topic has been on my mind lately, as over the past five months I have encountered a number of people who have experienced infertility in one form or another. It has been eye-opening to meet these people and hear their stories, because so often in the dating-, marriage-, and family-centric bubble of Utah Valley, surrounded by singles and couples in their late teens and early twenties, one rarely stops to consider these questions:


What would happen if I could not have children?

Would this impact my dating relationships?

What would my identity be if I couldn’t be a mother or a father?

Even if I can have children, what do I do or say around those who can’t?


Stance for the Family is a journal, magazine, and blog for all families—regardless of their makeup. Because of this, I want to hear from and write to this group of families and singles who may previously have felt a family-themed journal has no relevance to them.


If you or someone close to you has dealt with or is currently dealing with infertility, we want to hear from you. Single, married, religious, agnostic—we want to hear your stories. If you have a story to tell, please email Alissa at We will not publish anything without first requesting your consent. But this is an issue that so many unknown faces of our community need to hear about—whether it affects them personally, or whether they simply need help knowing how to support someone else going through this trial. Your story, no matter how small, may be just what someone else needs to give them hope.


“Who’s Your Dad?” “Tom, Dick, and Harry”

by Dustin Schwanger

California state senator Mark Leno (D) has introduced a bill, SB 1476, that would allow the state to recognize more than two parents for a child. According to Leno, “The bill brings California into the 21st century, recognizing that there are more than Ozzie and Harriet families today.” What sort of “families” has this bill been created for?

The reason for the bill stems from a case in which a lesbian couple were both legal parents of a child. One parent was sent to jail, and the other was hospitalized. When the biological father attempted to take custody of the child the state denied him because the state, by law, can only legally recognize two parents. The child was put into foster care.

This is, obviously, a tragedy, a tragedy that this bill would seek to rectify in the future. However, the problem with this bill is that it seeks to solve a legal issue through providing a solution that changes the framework of society. The foundation of society is the strong and stable family consisting of a father, mother, and children. Either tragedy or maleficence sometimes necessitates one parent to assume the roles of both or grandparents or other close relatives to care for the child.

Leno’s vision of the twenty-first-century family, however, seeks to include as parents many different people related and not related to the child, thus fundamentally changing the definition of family—that is, any Tom, Dick, and/or Harry will eventually be able to be a legal parent to a child.Family now, if this bill is passed, becomes whatever a judge wants it to be.

What are the consequences to such a move? In effect, this bill, if society as a whole follows after its lead, has the possibility of ending the institution of the family. If we allow society to redefine family as anything anyone wants it to be, then family effectively means nothing.

Although Leno may have good intentions in this bill (I’m sure he’s not singlehandedly trying to destroy the family), it must be stopped. The trajectory is set. If it is not changed, if there is not a line past which society refuses to move, then society will be unalterably damaged through the inevitable destruction of the family.

Happy Father’s Day!

from Dustin Schwanger

I would like to wish all fathers a happy Father’s Day, especially my own dad. He was my first role model, the one that I always wanted be like. Especially when I was a kid, I wanted to do what he did and wear what he wore—or apparently didn’t wear, according to this picture. Most importantly, he loved me and taught me how to be a good Christian. I just want to thank him and my mom, who has been just as influential in shaping who I am, for all the years they have loved and cared for me. If all parents were just like them, the world would be a much better place.

High School Condoms: Stepping Back for a Moment

by Dustin Schwanger

Contraception has, again, been a hot topic in the media over the past week, leading to a particularly feisty debate on Fox News. No, this isn’t over the Catholic Church’s suing the federal government over the contraception mandate (that has been conspicuously ignored by most of the media); it is about a small high school in Brooklyn handing out condoms at prom.

The debate on whether this high school should be distributing condoms on prom night quickly becomes eclipsed when looked at in the less-reported context in which this is happening. Tucked away in a couple of articles about this controversy was a report that not only will this school be giving out condoms on prom night but that the school will be holding an assembly discussing safe sex and that the English Department is even sponsoring an essay contest about safe sex.

As a social conservative I am repulsed by the implicit, and even explicit, encouragement of teen sex. My first thought is that the schools should not even be involved in this matter—that is the responsibility of parents. But then I remember that responsible parenthood is a waning art. My next thought is that if the school must teach students about sex, because of the neglect of parents to do so, the teaching should be abstinence only. But then I remember that we are currently losing the abstinence battle: the trend of society is moving toward complete acceptance of teen sex.

This is where the school in Brooklyn enters. The principal of the school might be a crusader for teen sex, but it’s more likely that he and his policy are products of the societal trend of normalization of teen sex. While still strongly opposing such moves by school districts, it would bode well for us normal, everyday supporters of traditional families and marriages to step back from this debate and focus more on how we can affect the small part of society continually surrounding us.

Affecting our part of society for good generally will not happen from aspirations to lobby local or national government to protect the morals of the country; it comes through the personal effect we have on those with whom we interact, especially teenagers. Aspiring to change a teenager’s life, to help him or her to make wise decisions, is one of best services we can perform for society. Mentoring teenagers is something that everyone can do. Everyone knows teenagers whether they be their children’s school friends, extended family, or youth from a local church. There are many ways to be a mentor to these teenagers: we can simply talk to them, invite them over to family dinner, or invite them to family activities. These expressions of love and encouragement will help them to make better decisions, such as not having sex in high school, than anything a school can teach. However, not giving this encouragement to the teenagers in our sphere of influence will do more to damage them, and therefore society, than whether a school in Brooklyn hands out condoms on prom night.

Motherhood: The Greatest Work

by Christy Hinkson

Christy is an author and a mother of ten. She recently released her new book Home Remedies for a Nation at Risk: What American Leaders could learn from American Families. Also, click here to view Christy’s blog Stand for the Truth.

The debate is back with some people questioning the value of the role of stay-at-home mothers. It is amazing that anyone would actually think that mothers who do not leave their homes to join the workforce are not working. As a mother of 10 children and the grandmother of 4, I would like to invite anyone who holds this belief to come to my house and follow me around for a day. Children enter this world through a process called “labor” and the work associated with motherhood is never done. Each mother in this world works and works hard.

By watching a mother at work you can witness what she does for her family physically, but it is impossible to witness the enormous impact that a mother has on the world now and forever. I dare anyone to find any job on earth that is more important and has a more lasting effect on humankind than mothers do. Governments rise and fall, companies come and go, celebrities leave superficial impressions, but no one can shape and influence another human like a mother can. Women do many kinds of work and make lasting contributions to the world, but any contribution pales in insignificance when compared to the impact of what she does as a good mother.

Sometimes mothers doubt their ability to impact because motherhood is available to so many. This responsibility is given by God to so many, because it is so important. Every hero that has entered this world came the same way, tiny, fragile and placed by God into the arms of a mother. Mothers teach and influence their children in a very personal way, who in turn teach and influence others, who teach and influence many others and on and on and on.  All that is good and right in this world can be traced back to the influence of somebody’s mother.

While I was in college, I wrote a simple song and now, 25 years later, I still believe every word of it. I will include the lyrics below. Our daughter, Heather, now the mother of two, recorded the song. A free download is available at this link:

“The Greatest Work”

The Greatest Work that I will ever do, will be in my own Home
I want to live in a way that I can give and make my potential known.
The greatest thing that I will ever do, I know inside will be
To live my life as a mother and a wife and raise a family.
The greatest work, the greatest thing, now is clearly in my view
I may reach heights unknown, but I know that in my home,
Is the greatest work that I will ever do.


How to Get Your Kids to Listen without Reminding or Yelling

by Caitlin Schwanger

Amy McCready—Founder of Positive Parenting Solutions

I recently attended Amy McCready’s Positive Parenting Solutıons webinar “How to Get Your Kids to Listen without Reminding or Yelling.” During the meeting, McCready, parenting specialist and creator of Positive Parentıng Solutions, explained a few basic principles to guide parents in their discipline strategies. Everything got better, she explained, when she began using positive parenting solutions: her children’s behavior got better, and her attitude improved. McCready stated that her vision for parents is that they won’t be able to remember the last time they had to raise their voice to get their children to obey.

How is this possible? How can you get your children to listen the first time? How can you stop misbehavior in your home? In the webinar, McCready explained a few basic principles that will help you on your way to parenting peace.

First, we have to understand why children misbehave in the first place. Bad behavior is a symptom of a deeper problem. We have to understand the problem before we can correct the bad behavior. Children (and adults) have two basic needs: they need to feel like they belong and they need to feel significant.

Children need to feel like they belong, that they are important to you. Children need to feel emotionally connected to their parents, to their siblings, even to their teachers. Children need a lot of positive attention from you. If they aren’t getting enough of that attention, they may resort to negative behaviors to get your attention, even if it’s negative. If something they do gets you to give them the attention they need, they’ll keep repeating that behavior. So one solution to bad behavior is to make sure that your child’s “positive attention basket” is full.

Children need to feel significant, that they are capable, that they make a difference, that they contribute. Often, this translates to children having a need to feel power, that they are in control. So, find ways to help your children feel like they are contributing. Have them help around the house–let chores be a positive thing. Also, give your children age-appropriate positive power. When it is appropriate, let them feel like they have a choice, like they are in control.

In her book, If I Have to Tell You One More Time, McCready provides parents with a “toolbox” of strategies for disciplining children. One of the tools she explained during the webinar was the 5 Rs of Consequences.


The 5 Rs of Consequences
1. Respectful—you need to be respectful to your child and to yourself. If you can’t deal with the situation right away, wait until you can be calm, collected, and respectful.

2. Related to the misbehavior—Make sure the consequence is related to the behavior so the learning event can take place. For example, if your daughter back talks, you shouldn’t discipline her by grounding her from her sleepover.

3. Reasonable in duration—The discipline should be reasonable for the age of the child. McCready recommended taking a puzzle away from a three-year-old for a day and video game privileges away for a week for a teenager.

4. Revealed in advance—You must reveal the rule and the consequence in advance. This gives your child the opportunity to make the choice. This gives them power and control over the situation.

5. Repeat—Have the child repeat the rule back to you. You now know that your child understands the rule and the consequence, and you now have a verbal agreement.


Positive Parenting Solutions has over twenty-five other tools for parents to use with their children. Parents have access to these tools through Positive Parenting Solution’s parenting courses and through Amy McCready’s book. For more information, see Positive Parenting Solutions, or the book, If I Have to Tell You One More Time.


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