Secrets of a Happy Family…

Secrets of a Happy Family… February 20, 2013

Parade Magazine did an interesting story on the secrets of a happy family last weekend. It’s worth reading. They featured a quiz that has a few interesting bits of trivia. I cherry-picked a few of the questions that I think play into some of what we’ve been talking about at Paperback Theology lately. See if you’d get these right:


When a team of psychologists measured children’s resilience, they found that the kids who ________ were best able to handle stress.

  1. Ate the same breakfast every day
  2. Knew the most about their family’s history
  3. Played team sports
  4. Attended regular religious services

Answer: You would think religion would get a little cred right? Not so much. The more children know about their family’s history, the stronger their sense of control over their lives and the higher their self-esteem. The reason: These children have a strong sense of “intergenerational self”—they understand that they belong to something bigger than themselves, and that families naturally experience both highs and lows. This fits with much of what I’ve been saying the past few weeks in How to Talk to Children About God Part I and Part II. One of the primary things a parent does is to give their children a good/true story to live.


Children are expected to learn how many new words per year during grades 3 through 12?

  1. 500
  2. 1,500
  3. 3,000

Answer: It may sound daunting, but three-thousand is correct. Best way to help is to learn words together, make a game out of it. This makes me want to be much more patient with my kids. The demands upon their abilities are extremely high when they are young. I have flash cards I use to try and increase my own vocabulary. I’m lucky if I can add 50 words in a year.


3. What do surveys show that children want most from their parents?

  1. To spend more time with them
  2. For the parents to be less tired and stressed
  3. A bigger allowance

Answer: I thought it could be more time, but the answer is they want their parents to be less stressed out and tired. It’s interesting to me how the practice of Sabbath subverts this issue. You can knock out answers one and two just by observing Sabbath as a family. I wonder if we are ready to own the fact that the biggest enemy to the family is stress?


4. Which of these out-of-school activities is more popular for American children ages 7 to 10?

  1. Music lessons
  2. Religious activities
  3. Team sports

Answer: Kid’s sports programs are out of control. They dominate the typical family calendar. Nearly three-quarters of American children play team sports, but parents often put too much pressure on their kids. To make sports more family-friendly: Don’t push athletics on your child. Don’t use commands during games (say “good pass,” not “pass the ball”). And don’t engage in postgame analysis (let the coaches coach; parents should be supportive).


5. Which behavior is more vital to a happy relationship?

  1. Supporting your partner during a difficult period
  2. Celebrating your partner after an accomplishment

Answer: Researchers at the University of California at Santa Barbara asked men and women to share good news with their partners. Those with the strongest relationships didn’t just toast their partner’s achievement (“Good job, honey”) but attributed it to their unique self (“Only someone with your ingenuity could have won that big account”). The scientists concluded that it’s more important to congratulate your partner when things go right than to console when things go wrong.


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  • CB

    If you find the subject of children, resilience, faith and family fascinating (I do) then I recommend reading Dr. Robert Coles. I have several books if you want to borrow. His bio is fascinating as well.

    A recommendation re: the sports/activities deal: Rather than putting qualifiers on feedback for kids (good, bad, better, worse) – spend time increasing your non-qualitive vocabulary toward them. This does not come naturally to any of us (we’ve been formed in a competitive and darwinistic society) and requires intentionality and practice. This also requires higher level thinking and understanding as the deliverer and the listener. It leaves questions and allows for ambiguity. It leaves us scratching our heads and challenges us to define things by our own terms (self-talk). “Your drawing really makes me feel some strong emotions. I’m not sure if it is the colors that you used, or the movement, or what. What do you think?” “I can tell that you were really focused today in the second half of your soccer game. It was exciting to see you stay so close to the ball. Did it feel fun to play today?” “I saw you high five that player on the other team at the end of the game. What did that feel like? What would if have felt like if you had won the game? Would that have felt different?” “It looks like your hard work during practice is paying off. You seem to have lots of energy to finish strong. Do you feel like you are in good shape? What can we do this week together to make your feet move quickly and your heart work hard?”

    I know that some will roll their eyes at these suggestions. But I’m an absolute stress-case (and yes, I’m completely overcompensating) at my daughter’s soccer games listening to parents yell at both ends of the continuum of extremes (berating/over celebrating). I’m totally saying things like this to my daughter’s bench when they rotate in and out. And they all are smiling and looking for me when they come. (Disclaimer: I’m not competitive. I don’t get it. I’m sure there is something good about it, but I haven’t discovered for myself yet.)

    Lastly, we started having “family meetings” about 5 months ago around here. We developed a family statement, a list of family values and posted them in each bedroom of the house. It was good to be proactive about our ministry as a family-unit, our agreed upon code of conduct, and our goals. It gives everyone equal footing for 30 minutes. Changes the dynamic of parents/kids to “us”. It feels good. It seems to be helpful in discussing issues that come up that need some problem-solving time and also makes sure that everyone gets eye-contact with everyone else while they share their stuff. We do this (schedule a time) partly b/c Dad is often gone or late for our dinnertime ritual.

  • CB

    Oh, and ditch the vocab flashcards and read more books. Vocabulary building needs integration. Schemata. Absolutely necessary and much more efficient.