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Secrets of happy families

1. They maintain balance: Though it’s important to encourage and support children’s endeavours at school and in extracurricular activities, the smartest parents realise an overabundance of competition, or overemphasis on high performance, can be more damaging than nourishing.

“It’s important to carve out time for “activities that have no goal other than for family members to enjoy one another,” says American psychologist, Lisa Greenberg.

“Cooking or baking together, playing games, taking walks, collaborating on a surprise for a friend or family member, or doing something to help someone else are all good choices.”

Carving out this kind of together time builds strong connections between kids and parents, which in turn can help kids succeed in other arenas, too, Greenberg says.

2.They snack smart: Getting kids to gravitate naturally toward healthy foods starts with having them easily accessible at all times — like a bowl of fresh fruit on the counter or a bag of dried fruit in the car.

Children are natural grazers, so on-the-go is often the best way to serve up nutritious options—and avoid dinner-table strife.

3. They make children important contributors: Andrea Frayser, a mother of three, gives her kids (ages 17, 14, and 12) a budget and lets them shop for and prepare a meal each week.

By helping the family run smoothly and contributing to its goals, children gain a sense of authority and responsibility.

4. They reward good behaviour: Disciplining kids is a tough job—and everyone has their own idea of how it should be done.

But offering modest rewards for good behaviour often seems to do the trick in keeping things harmonious at home. Rewards can include going to bed later than usual, or a popcorn-and-movie night.

5. They take 10: “We’re pulled in so many directions that sometimes the most we can hope to get for ourselves is 10 minutes at a time—10 minutes to read, meditate, talk to a friend, do investment planning,” notes Los Angeles-based Laura Brady Saade, mother of three and founder of Give Me 10.

“But devoting just that tiny parcel of time each day to positive change, really can crank out results.” 

Saade applies the concept to nurturing her kids: “I try to spend at least 10 minutes of focused, one-on-one time with each one,” she says.

And when her kids are cowed by a big task or project, she encourages them to get started—and stick with it for just 10 minutes.

“Once they get started, they usually find it’s not so bad.”