Familius is celebrating its 10 year anniversary this year! Read along to learn what our founder and CEO Christopher Robbins has to say about the last 10 years and our goals for the next 10 years.
Goals and Coaches
Familius’s goal is to help you have a happy family. We like the goal. We want you to meet the goal. You may have memes and wall art and podcasts and self-help books and therapists to inspire, help, encourage, and nurture our happy family objective. But what about the habits that lead to this goal?
In his bestselling book Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones, author James Clear encourages us to stop focusing on a goal and start focusing on the “systems” that lead to the goal—the habits.
This idea is not new. John Wooden, the legendary coach of the UCLA Bruins men’s basketball team, never focused on winning. What he wanted was for his players to “maximize their performance.” It just so happened that in focusing on the habits that lead to improved performance, his teams won. In fact, they didn’t just win—they dominated more than a decade of basketball, once winning eighty-eight consecutive games! Eventually, they won ten championships over twelve years and seven championships in a row. No other men’s or women’s Division 1 basketball team has won more than four total.
What were some of Coach Wooden’s habits? He told his players to dry their hair after showering to prevent colds. Coach Wooden insisted that his players take a ten-minute walk and nap before each game. He had his players wear two pairs of 50 percent cotton socks with wrinkles smoothed to prevent blisters. And, the player’s shoes had to be laced tightly and a half size too small. All of these habits were developed to maximize his players’ performance.
Habits vs Goals
But what’s a goal and what’s a habit?
The goal is to lose twenty pounds. The habit is to reduce your caloric intake or increase your caloric burn through exercise by 500 calories a day.
The goal is to run a marathon. The habit is to run a certain number of miles each day.
The goal is to take a family vacation to Costa Rica. The habit is to stop eating out and cut all subscriptions for a year and deposit that money into the vacation savings fund.
The goal is to have a happy family. But what are the habits that get us there?
After leading Familius for ten years and raising nine kids over thirty, we’ve discovered at least ten habits that we believe help with our happy family goal. It’s amazing to hear from readers how a simple habit transformed their family or even life. And we can’t even begin to share how impactful it has been to know that some books have saved lives—that certainly helps improve happiness!
10 Habits of a Happy Family
So to celebrate Familius’s ten-year anniversary, we’re sharing our ten habits again, but this time we’re aligning one book that we feel will help you with this habit and providing you with one idea to help you get started. These habits are not in any order of importance because beginning any of these habits helps lead you and your family to a happier family.
- Work Together: Do you outsource your yardwork and have kids at home? Stop it. Instead of paying someone to mow your lawn, trim your hedges, or wash your windows, try doing it together as a family. Don’t tell your kids to go mow the lawn. Instead, invite them to come work with you, even if they are little. Having your kids help you work instills grit and provides a true sense of accomplishment. For more about working together, consider The Turning: Why the State of the Family Matters and What the World Can Do About It by Richard and Linda Eyre.
- Love Together: Remember love is a verb. Love takes action not just words. Too often we’re focused on our own needs and wants rather than what our family members need. It takes practice to see the needs of someone else and engage in their life. Try putting down the phone for an evening and just sit with a member of your family. Ask questions about their day and what they’d really like to do this summer. Taking time to listen will show the love you have for them. For more about loving together, consider What About Us: A New Parent’s Guide by Karen Kleiman, illustrated by Molly McIntyre.
- Eat Together: Everyone loves this habit. While music may soothe the savage breast, a good sandwich can pacify the prickliest teenager. We’ve lost the habit of eating together. The kitchen table used to be the daily boardroom of our families. Now we’ve moved to individual lives in our own bedrooms with our own devices. Try putting them down for an evening and making dinner together. For starters, try Eat, Laugh, Talk: The Family Dinner Playbook to help you with recipes, games, and conversation starters.
- Give Together: There’s really nothing quite like the feeling we get when we help another human being. There’s a special connection that’s created and, often, our own worries and concerns melt away in the service of another person. Consider an annual challenge of your family helping another family once a month. Using apps like Just Serve are great resources to find needs in your own community. A fun book of ideas to give to another person is The Magic of You: A Colorful Book of Happiness by Instagram influencer Laura Jane Jones.
- Heal Together: We’ve just been through two years of a pandemic. Inflation is on the rise. Russia has invaded Ukraine. And we all know someone who has been impacted by loss, death, anxiety, or other tragedy or challenges. You can help. Sometimes it’s best to just show up and shut up. Think of that person you know who has had a hard time. Go buy a gallon of chocolate ice cream and take it to their doorstep and simply say, “I love you. I’m sorry things are so hard. I want to help and don’t know how to. So I brought you chocolate ice cream.” Unless they are lactose intolerant, they will be grateful because they will know that you are willing to help bear their burdens. For fun, consider the book Bad Day Ice Cream by Kathryn Thompson and Barbara Beery.
- Learn Together: Showing an insatiable curiosity about the world around you is contagious. When’s the last time you looked at the patterns in the clouds? Or sat and watched the insects beneath your feet? Watched a YouTube video about the size of stars throughout the universe? Or decided to build something and had your kids use their geometry skills to help do it? There is no end to the opportunity to share with your family what there is to learn. Take this next weekend and learn something new together. Maybe even consider taking a walk in the park to see if you can find any of the edible plants found in 276 Edible Wild Plants of The United States and Canada by Caleb Warnock.
- Laugh Together: My kids love watching a YouTube channel called Studio C. It’s silly but it is really funny. My older kids seem to like to watch people falling and tripping. I’m not sure why we find people falling so funny, but since comedians started using banana peels to slip on, we’ve been laughing. What does your family do for laughter? Some studies suggest that on average, children laugh three hundred to four hundred times a day. Have you counted how many times they’ve heard you laugh? Try it. Ask your kids or your partner or co-workers to count how many times you laugh in a day. You’ll be amazed. It will probably be under twenty. What’s the difference? Instead of complaining about how hard life can be, try laughing about it. Boost your endorphins and get busy solving life’s challenges with a little laughter. To help, consider Unicorn (and Horse) by David Miles. It is really a funny book.
- Read Together: Reading out loud with your family is an amazing experience. And having your children read out loud to you is often even better. My daughter likes to read to me when I lie down in bed. Pretty soon, she’s put me to sleep. She’s improved her reading. I’ve spent time listening. And she’s provided a very calming way for me to wind down. Children who read out loud develop strong literacy skills, a good vocabulary, and a lively imagination. Turn off the device one night a week and, instead, read together as a family and let everyone have a turn. A great read-aloud with pictures is Zhang Heng and the Incredible Earthquake Detector by Randel McGee.
- Play Together: This last weekend we were invited to have dinner with some new friends. He oversees a winery and she is an attorney. They are both highly educated and successful. They have four little children. When we finished dinner, the mother invited us to play a game. What game? Duck, Duck, Goose! So we had four parents, four teenagers, and four little kids in a circle chasing each other every time a player touched a head and said, “Goose!” We all had a fantastic time playing with her children. Play is essential to develop motor and social skills. Taking time to play unstrings our metaphorical bows and helps us return to our child-like selves for a brief but important period. We recommend you play some games that don’t require any technology and involve getting to know each other better. Consider The Big Book of Family Games by game expert Brad Berger.
- And lastly, Talk Together: Talking and listening are essential skills in any family. And it’s not just listening. It’s working to understand the other person as so much is left unsaid. When’s the last time you focused on just listening, being patient enough to let the other person complete everything they wanted to say without interrupting. We challenge you to take the next week and just listen when someone engages you in an important conversation. Don’t think about what you want to say in response. Just listen. When they are finished, try saying, “Thanks for sharing that. I think I understand that what you are saying is . . .” and repeat what you think they said. If you’ve been listening well, they will say, “Yes!” and they will feel heard. That matters. To help, Familius has a wonderful book called Family Talk: How to Organize Family Meetings to Solve Problems and Strengthen Relationships by Christy Monson. It’s a great way to help your family learn to communicate in a better way.
And there you have it, ten habits that lead to a happier family. Good luck!