When parenting feels hard, parents can become desperate for a solution. The urgent need for improvement leads us to search for quick-fix solutions. That must’ve been what Dr. Kevin Leman had in mind when he wrote his 2015 book, “Have a Happy Family by Friday.”
The title implies that the changes will be quickly implemented with immediate results. But, of course we now that our families can’t be changed in just a few days. If he had titled it, “There are no Shortcuts. Parenting is a continuous effort.” We might not have bought it, even though that is his message. We can’t stop trying.
The first piece of advice he offers: “You can change your family simply by changing the words you choose to use with those you love.” I have found this to be true in my own life and appreciated the reminder. Here’s his full list:
The Top 10 Countdown to Having a Happy Family by Friday
10. Spend your time on what’s important. All else can wait.
9. Put relationships before things.
8. Focus on and encourage what your kids do right rather than eagle-eyeing what they do wrong.
7. Choose your priorities wisely, with the long term in mind.
6. Be the first to laugh at yourself and create fun.
5. Expect the best and you’ll get the best.
4. Don’t outsource your children. The best gift you can give—yourself—doesn’t cost a dime.
3. Keep your calm even during a crisis.
2. Don’t hold grudges. Wipe the slate clean at the end of each day.
1. Remember that the words you choose to use with your loved ones will change their lives.
Even though these items can’t be accomplished in just one day, they are worth considering over the long-term.
Knowing that it is especially parents with teens that want immediate results, Dr. Leman emphasizes specific skills for adolescents. He quips, “remember that adolescence isn’t terminal.”
His feedback for parents of teens:
The Top 8 Countdown to Keeping Your Teens Close
8. Talk to your kids. Don’t talk at them.
7. Eliminate the word why from your vocabulary. Use statements, comments, and observations instead.
6. Show an interest in their activities. Listen to their music and find something good to say about it.
5. Be available to them—don’t make them think they’re a bother.
4. Seek out their opinions, thoughts, and advice.
3. Be predictable and consistent.
2. Expect the best of them.
1. Have fun.
Dr. Leman also continues to share similar information from his other books. His favorite theme is the way birth order impacts family dynamics.
Communication 101 with Firstborns What you can do to have a happier family by Friday: Give them specifics, details. Lighten up on their responsibilities; as achievers, they already feel the stress and pressure. Watch your own critical eye; don’t overcorrect them. Don’t micromanage them; they’re already doing that for themselves. Don’t “should” on them; instead, project in all you say and do, “I love you as you are.”
Communication 101 with Middleborns What you can do to have a happier family by Friday: Listen to them. Ask their opinion on anything (vacation, computer help, decor, purchases), and follow up by showing you value that opinion. Spend time with just them. Let them make choices (“I’d love it if you’d pick the restaurant for our family dinner”). Show your respect for them as individuals in order to even out the competitive spirit the middle child naturally feels with siblings.
Communication 101 with Lastborns What you can do to have a happier family by Friday: Give them the opportunity to lead (planning family outings and celebrations). Identify their unique strengths and encourage them; remember, they are continually comparing themselves to their siblings farther up the food chain. Affirm them for their unique role in the family and for their social skills. Grow their levels of responsibility and hold them accountable. Let them entertain you, and laugh with them often.
These comments helped me remember ways I can improve. Family work is never done. We struggle to see our impact while we are in the midst of the effort. Books like this can be an encouraging reminder to not give up.