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11 Rules for Successful Families

  • Sarah Hamaker Contributing Writer
  • Published Nov 20, 2015
11 Rules for Successful Families

What defines family success? Successful families share similar traits. “A successful family is one that has love and acceptance and laughter,” said David Dykes, pastor of Green Acres Baptist Church in Tyler, Texas. “Any family that is thriving is successful.”

These characteristics—or rules—can be adopted by any family at any stage. Being successful isn’t just so you can post wonderful status updates on Facebook—successful families are important because “families are the basic unit of civilization which God created,” said Dykes. “When families aren’t getting along in general, it can impact the whole country.”

But how do you achieve success as a family? By following these 11 rules—and ways to implement them—that are the hallmarks of successful families.

Rule 1: Faith. Whatever we face as a family, having faith in God provides the foundation upon which we build our unit. “When we turn to God in all things, He provides his strength, guidance and peace,” said Janet Perez Eckles, international speaker and author of Simply Salsa. “We need to remember that we don’t have all the answers but God does.”

How to achieve faith: Have regular family devotions and prayer time; attend church together weekly.

Rule 2: Commitment. It takes being willing to stick together through thick and thin to make a family successful. “That commitment starts with parents being committed to their marriage first because that brings security to the children,” said Mary L. Hamilton, author of See No Evil. 

How to achieve commitment: Focus more on your marriage than your children; have regular date nights with your spouse.

Rule 3: Time together. “You can’t have a successful family without spending time together,” said Dykes. “There’s absolutely no substitute for time.” In our busy lives, we need to make family time a priority by carving out specific times for it. “If you don’t make the time for family, someone else would take that time,” reminded Dykes.

How to achieve togetherness: Schedule regular family outings or game nights.

Rule 4: Identity. Family members need to identify with each other as a family. “Each person needs to know they belong together, that there’s a loyalty among the members and the confidence that someone’s got their back,” said Hamilton. “Everyone working towards the same goal can solidify your identity with each other.”

How to achieve identity: Develop a family motto or mission statement.

Rule 5: Make memories. “Shared experiences strengthen the bond between family members,” said Dykes. “Going on trips is a great way to make memories that can last a lifetime.” Trips don’t have to be extravagant or to exotic destinations to make an impression--often the fun is in doing something unusual or out-of-the ordinary together.

How to achieve memories: Get the kids involved in planning trips or vacations.

Rule 6: Dine together. It sounds like a cliché but the family that regularly eats together has a better relationship with each other. “We were always a big believer in eating together and that meal time wasn’t screen time,” said Dykes. “I think the trap a lot of families fall into is in thinking eating together isn’t important to the family as a whole.”

How to achieve eating together: Ensure activities don’t infringe on dinner time. 

Rule 7: Building up. Successful families are ones in which mean criticism isn’t tolerated. “You want to have an atmosphere of building each other up, not tearing each other down,” said Hamilton. “Making someone fear inferior is one of the biggest hindrances to success as a family.”

How to achieve building up: Establish a rule that every criticism or tattle must be accompanied by three compliments.

Rule 8: Forgiveness. Holding onto anger or hurt can derail a family’s success in heartbeat. “Lack of forgiveness can spell certain downfall in a family,” said Eckles. “It fuels animosity and can to hard situations into emotionally charged ones.”

How to achieve forgiveness: Teach kids how to apologize (be specific, be sincere, accept apology, forgive and move on).

Rule 9: Perseverance. Life isn’t always easy, and families that work hard to overcome anything they encounter have more chance for successful. “The ability to overcome adversity is essential to developing a healthy family,” said Eckles. 

How to achieve perseverance: Develop a habit of being thankful in all things and of not giving up when the going gets tough.

Rule 10: Disconnect. Have specific times of the day when everyone’s disconnected from digital devices. We can become so connected to our electronics that we become disconnected from our families. Technology-free zones are critical to keeping families together.

How to achieve digital disconnection: Put a basket by the front door and collect all handheld digital devices during family meal time, meetings, game night, etc. 

Rule 11: Fun. Sometimes, we get so involved in the day-to-day minutiae that we forget to enjoy one another. Laughter, light-hearted moments seal together the family. “Relationships are built on having fun,” said Hamilton. “Making opportunities to have fun together will go a long way to bringing family back together.”

How to achieve fun: Seek little moments when you can have a tickle fest with your kids, share a shoulder rub with your spouse, or chase your children around the table.

By implementing these rules in your family, you can have a more connected and vibrant family. “When you find that willingness to make the effort to spend time together, you provide that feeling of belonging that we all need,” said Hamilton. “That’s what makes families thrive.”

A certified Leadership Parenting Coach,™ Sarah Hamaker has written Ending Sibling Rivalry: Moving Your Kids From War to Peace. Her blogs on parenting have appeared in The Washington Post’s On Parenting, and she’s a frequent contributor to Sarah lives in Fairfax, Va., with her husband and four children. Visit her online at and follow her on Twitter @parentcoachnova

Publication date: November 20, 2015