Lean in: Dr Justin Coulson’s simple tip for joyful parenting

Dad and toddler girl

When life gets busy the first thing to slip away can be important time with your children.

Child psychologist Dr Justin Coulson has six daughters. And just like the rest of us, he’s always looking for ways to connect with them as a parent with a busy life.

As he told Happy Mama and Kinderling’s Daytime Explorers host, Amy Taylor-Kabbaz in a recent podcast, keeping routines simple is one of the easiest ways to keep leaning into parenting, joyfully.

“We are so busy and worried about being organised and right all the time, we are missing the joy of raising the children. It feels like we are on ‘automatically life’ all the time,” says Justin.

Our language impacts our children’s reality 

The words we use when we’re talking to our children can have a serious impact on the way they feel and also, how life begins to unfold. 

“How many times have you heard yourself say something like, ‘Oh for goodness sake’, or  ‘I just want five minutes alone’ and, ‘What are you doing on the table/toilet/chair?’ These phrases sometimes just fall out of our mouths but they can really impact the amount of joy we feel as parents,” says Justin.

Let go of perfection

This may seem easier said than done but it starts with really looking at where and what we spend our time doing. 

“Instagram or Facebook or magazines increase the expectation we have on ourselves. What we look at all day changes our expectations of what life ‘should’ look like and we have to let go of that,” says Justin. 

Next, remind yourself how little time we actually get with our children when they are little.

We actually only get 936 weekends in a lifetime when they are still ‘kids’ (under 18), and we don’t get all of those either because of all the commitments in modern life,” says Justin.  “When you look at it in terms of numbers, we’re reminded to make the most of moments.”

Prioritise YOUR values

The main thing is to keep the main thing, the main thing.

Sounds like a mouthful, doesn’t it?

Put simply: Ask yourself what is your main thing when it comes to parenting? If it’s the quality of your relationships with your kids then focus on that.

“If you’ve got a routine that drives everyone to exhaustion and you don’t have time for nurture, that really special 10-15 minutes with the kids before they drift off to sleep – then make a change. Step back and realise that you really only have such a short time,” says Justin. 


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How do we change?

Every one of us has a moment where we turn into the parent we promised we’d never be. 

Justin says awareness is the key to turning things around. 

“Look at your own life first and see what you can manage differently. Being organised will help you respond with more ease to your children’s needs because it buys you time,” says Justin. 

Three mornings a week, Justin and his wife creep into their children’s bedrooms 15 minutes before they’re due to wake up and just sit on their beds. 

“We give them a cuddle and use that time to talk and have a nice cuddle or listen to some calm music. It really sets them up for the day and keeps the mood light,” says Justin.

A fellow dad that Justin knows uses some mornings to simply sit in the room where his children play, without his phone or watching TV or reading and just wait for them to come and talk to him – which they always do! 

A feeling of belonging is essential for kids 

“Research shows us that happy resilient kids know that they matter and that they belong somewhere,” says Justin. 

“Our children simply only need to know that they matter and belong, and if we can keep that in mind then we are doing a good job.” 

This post was originally published on Kinderling Kids Radio. Download the Kinderling app for more great stories. 

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