Would you consider your family to be one of the happiest families on earth? You might be surprised to learn that the happiest families aren’t those with the most possessions, the greatest wealth, the smartest kids attending the finest schools or the ones who take several vacations a year. In fact, the research is clear that money, intelligence, status in the community and even peak health has little to do with sustaining high family life satisfaction.
However, there are three core characteristics that the happiest families – those who are flourishing, loving and authentic – share in common.
Good self-esteem and well-being
The first characteristic of flourishing families is that they promote good self -esteem and well-being among all the family members. Family members don’t keep secrets or hold grudges. They schedule an abundance of family activities that include and celebrate the strengths and abilities of each family member. They build positive emotions into those activities that leave every family member looking forward to the next experience together. They don’t isolate but prefer a balance of individual time, family time and time with like-minded families.
Meaning, Purpose, Direction
The second characteristic of flourishing families is a well-defined meaning and purpose for the family. They understand and act consistently on their family values. They confront family crises and struggles together through problem solving during regularly scheduled inclusive family meetings. They give back to the communities they live in and relate to. They are generally optimistic about the future and put setbacks and disappointments in perspective.
Intentional family vitality
The third characteristic of the happiest families is that they prevent mental health problems by practicing calming strategies such as prayer, meditation or other mindfulness activities. They teach critical thinking and problem-solving strategies. Parents support age appropriate self -determination and self-reliance. They model a zest for living to improve overall family vitality. Parents encourage their child to tackle challenging tasks and decisions, knowing that the child will sometimes fail but become more resilient as a result of that failure.
Families that Flounder
Just as the happiest family share similar traits, families that report the lowest family life satisfaction also have some common features including
Parents talking too much – nagging and pleading really doesn’t work
Allowing tirades and temper tantrums – no one likes being manipulated
Frequent “tears of frustration” from the parent – a parental form of manipulation
Terroristic threats or threats of physical abuse
Inconsistency in expectations and punishment
Parents arguing about discipline in front of a child
Treating children as property instead of people
Being one of the happiest families on earth isn’t magic or a gift from above. Instead it is a set of conditions that are worked on, a little bit every day. In fact, becoming one of the happiness families on earth is just a matter of science, applying the evidence from Positive Psychology and the Science of Happiness.
For a free checklist “The 12 Habits of the Happiest Families on Earth go to
Daniel Trussell, Ph.D., LPC, NCC, CPCS is author of How Families Flourish, a parenting guide using the constructs of applied positive psychology. To learn more about his program go to HowFamiliesFlourish.com