As a professional, you are constantly faced with the challenge of maintaining your „work-life balance“ in such a way that neither work nor family (nor your own needs) are neglected. This challenge gains in quality and importance as soon as the offspring arrives and the parents experience not only the many moments of happiness but also various stress and conflict situations for which they are usually not sufficiently prepared. Interestingly, most expectant parents have a very realistic idea of what the time up to the birth of their (first) child looks like – not least through so-called „birth preparation courses“ (in Germany also popularly known as „panting courses“). However, many parents often only realize what a huge responsibility they have assumed for the coming decades after the birth of their (first) child.

About 20 years ago, on the occasion of the birth of my eldest daughter, I accidentally found the book „The Secret of Happy Children“ by Steve Biddulph and consider it a true pearl among the educational guides. For the past 20 years, I have tried to apply the principles of Steve Biddulph in the upbringing of my three children.

The bestselling author Steve Biddulph comes from Australia and is a child psychologist and educational consultant. With a lot of empathy and understanding, he deals with conflicts, communication problems, family structures, age-related challenges and much more. His communication tips are not only suitable for dealing with children, but basically apply to everyone and his suggestions on how parents can gain new energy are really helpful.

„The Secret of Happy Children“ is one of the books that you want to give to every couple at the birth of their first child (which I have already done several times). The following summary of the main contents of the book was originally written for myself, but I would like to make it available to interested readers in this way:

  1. „You are“ clauses settle in the subconscious of children.
  2. You should convey positive messages to your children and reinforce them with gestures („anchor“).
  3. You should avoid humiliating statements to his children, even if they are meant positively (such as „you little clumsy fellow“).
  4. Explain facts to children better positively („please be quiet“), than negatively („don’t be so loud“).
  5. To be happy, children need a daily share of conversations in which they experience affection and some praise.
  6. Children try to attract attention to experience care and stimulation of other people.
  7. Children behave conspicuously when they get bored because they feel rejected or to get attention.
  8. If you decide to spend time with the children, then you have to adapt to their needs and shut down your own speed.
  9. You should leave the responsibility for finding a solution and the pleasure of finding a solution to the child by turning the problem into a learning experience (rather than solving the problem for the child).
  10. What we really strive for are children who can tolerate and deal with the diverse emotions that life brings with it.
  11. Young children have no inhibitions – they simply and spontaneously express their emotions. As they grow up, they need to learn to live out their feelings in a social context and to channel the powerful energies that give emotions into constructive pathways.
  12. Whenever we want to change the behavior of our children, we should aim at what can be useful to them later when they grow up.
  13. Lead by example. It is more likely that the child will do what you do than what you say. What you aspire to, you should also live.
  14. Recommended method of education: Strict rules coupled with positive care, i.e.: 1. Be tough or strict but predictable, so that the children know which rules apply and how to stay out of difficulties; 2. In addition, clearly and often tell your children that you loved and appreciate them. Never reject the children.
  15. There are three typical patterns of reaction of parents to their children’s unbridled behavior: aggressiveness, passivity and determination.
  16. The trick with unbridled behavior is simply not to give in. If the child finds out that you’re not giving in, aren’t having an entertaining little nervous breakdown and aren’t distracted, it just follows. Make sure you have the child’s undivided attention, look him/her in the eyes, take tone and posture that clearly signal to the child „Now it’s time to get serious“.
  17. Self-confident parents learn to be loving and strict at the same time – and their children are more balanced as a result.
  18. Certain parents: 1. are not afraid of conflicts; 2. make clear demands and give clear instructions; 3. set the rules and consistently observe the consequences of these rules; 4. are more willing to negotiate the older the children get.
  19. Basically, a child who negotiates something with its mother should also bring it to an end with her. The father should only ensure that the child complies with certain limits and that the matter progresses.
  20. When small children do tasks, they learn to take responsibility in good time.
  21. Your goal should be to educate a person who, at the age of 18, makes a contribution to the household that is quite close to that of their parents, i.e. to cook at least once a week for the whole family and to take responsibility for at least one area of everyday life.
  22. Competence in all areas of daily life should be taught in the context of education: Cooking, washing, cleaning, animal care, dealing with money and time, negotiating skills and teamwork.
  23. Children seem to grow up happiest when mother and father are interested in and loving with each other – to such an extent that the children cannot push themselves between the parents, even when they try (what they do!).
  24. If the partnership of parents gets into real difficulties and the quarrels never end, then children feel this very clearly. The conflict cannot be hidden from the children, no matter what you do to cover it up.
  25. A child is happier with a single parent than in an unhappy marriage. Staying together because of the children, even though marriage makes them unhappy, is a mistake.
  26. Ten minutes that can save your marriage: 1. sit down as soon as you get home; 2. eat something to calm your stomach and take in energy; 3. send the children aside if they disturb you during your rest period (only for 10 minutes); 4. drink something to relax; 5. talk, if possible.
  27. You will notice that everything is much easier because your whole rhythm – including the pulse rate – has adjusted to the rhythm of your partner. This daily ritual is so simple, yet it has a tremendous effect. It saves marriages. It’s uncomplicated. Give it a try!
  28. Children and television: Scenes of violence and the low regard for human life on television deprive the children of their relationship to reality and contribute to their feelings dying away. They also miss so much else: the flickering box hypnotizes the children and robs them of the time they would normally spend running, jumping, playing, talking, reading and creatively designing. Addendum: SmartPhones and Play Stations only began their triumphal march through children’s rooms after the publication of the book; however, the above statements apply equally or even above all to SmartPhones and Play Stations, with which children now waste considerably more time than with television.
  29. Criteria for evaluating the children’s program: 1. Is this the kind of language your children should learn? 2. Is imagination promoted? 3 What values are conveyed?
  30. Overworked parents reach a point where they can no longer be loving and caring parents. Therefore it is absolutely necessary that you take care of yourself. You can only be good parents if you are happy and healthy.
  31. Besides food, people usually also need energy in the form of love, recognition, touch, conversation, etc.
  32. Every person you talk to gives you energy or takes it away from you. It is worthwhile to look around among your friends and to consider who prevents you from refueling and who promotes it.
  33. Physical touch calms and strengthens, it enables people to open up and break out of tension.
  34. In fact, you have only three simple duties as parents, in this order: 1. to take care of yourself; 2. to take care of your partnership; 3. to take care of your children.
  35. You need leeway for change, which is necessary to be interested in your partner in the long run and also to remain interesting for him/her (and not only to be a nanny or bread roll giver).
  36. The so-called „Behavioral Protection Training“ in Australia conveys two essential basic messages: 1. nothing is so bad that you cannot talk to someone about it; 2. you have the right to feel safe at all times and to defend yourself if you feel insecure.
  37. Students of secondary schools suffer mainly from four things: 1. the subject matter; 2. the humiliation of teachers; 3. the loneliness and 4. the aggressiveness of other children.
  38. The main thesis of this book is simple: What we say to our children and how we say it is decisive for their growth and development in many ways.

You can buy the book in any well-stocked bookstore or order it here:

Four essential factors for an adequate work life balance extracted from Kenneth H. Blanchard’s brilliant book „The one minute manager – Fitness“ are described in my blog of the same name published on October 31, 2017:


In my article „Personality Development: Why you should give good tips to bad waiters“ (see: I have already mentioned the technique of „comparative polarization,“ which can also be of great use in the education of children or in a partnership. With this technique you ask yourself comparative questions, such as: „Is my love of order more important to me than a good relationship with my children? – especially during puberty, when children are often extremely sloppy?“ Or: „Is it more important to do another job in the office or to take my partner out for dinner as promised?“ This can help to identify and set the right priorities when in doubt. Listen to your gut feeling. A healthy dose of humor helps in many cases to defuse critical situations. Last but not least, a note that is very important to me: When your children are grown up, you will notice that the 20 or so years since birth have flown by. That’s why you take enough time from the beginning to be aware of how your children are growing up and be there for them whenever they need you. You can’t turn back time and there is no more beautiful and honorable task in your life …

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