|The Happy Family by Ferdinand Georg Waldmuller|
Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. -- Leo TolstoyI don't think I quite agree with Tolstoy but I guess there are certain characteristics that add up to happiness in a family even though the details may differ quite drastically. Maybe it's like the way there are all kinds of saints but they all have certain essential things in common, like love for God and a spectrum of virtues.
James Stenson discusses successful families in his book and so I went looking to see if there was any research about what makes a family successful. I found this:
Identifying Successful Families
Research on Successful Families
From these, it seems that the markers for a successful family according to the researchers' parameters are:
- encouragement of individuals
- expressing appreciation
- commitment to family
- religious/spiritual orientation
- social connectedness
- ability to adapt
- clear roles
- time together
The definitions of a successful or strong family vary but usually include (1) room for maturation and development for both parents and children and (2) healthy response to stress.
Within these parameters there can be wide variations for temperament, circumstances, and other factors. In other words, income, level of education, discipline style, and number of activities and opportunities do not correlate directly as success markers except as they affect the main categories (for example, very rigid discipline usually means less room for flexibility, which makes it more difficult to respond healthily to stress and to allow room for individual development). .
Also, here is James Stenson's website called Parent Leadership with various articles on parenting. I find it slightly discouraging (sigh). But his list of what makes for successful parenting seems realistic and balanced. He says:
"What is striking about these successful parents is their diversity. Temperament and "talent" do not seem to be crucially important...Some successful parents are energetic extroverts; others are quiet and mild-mannered. Some seem to sense immediately what needs to be done with their children in a host of situations; others, far more numberous, have serious concerneds and questions and so they seek experienced advice. Some are home-centered, though not to a fault; others are busy in professional and social affairs, but not to excess."So what things do these parents have in common?
- Mutual Respect
- Seeing children as adults in the making
- Religious convictions
- Discipline treated as strength building, not merely control.
- A stress on responsibility as well as freedom.
- Television kept under control.
- Frequent conversation with children
- Discipline seen as worthwhile investment