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To Raise Happy Kids, Put Your Marriage First Paperback – September 1, 2009

4.5 out of 5 stars 33 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"I found David’s articles very insightful personally . . . Many thanks!"  —John Carey, senior correspondent, Business Week

"You will never look at your family's problems the same way again. David Code is a big-picture thinker with a gift for translating scientific facts into practical solutions. His new solutions to common family problems can help solidify your marriage and improve your parenting."  —Jaak Panksepp, neuroscientist and author, Affective Neuroscience

"Every parent, and every couple, should read this book to prevent them from having an affair with their child[ren]. What misery and suffering for all concerned, for generations to come, when couples put their marriage anywhere but first. A must-read."  —Harville Hendrix, PhD, author, Getting the Love You Want and Giving the Love that Heals: A Guide for Parents

"David Code offers a game-changing combination of Bowen family systems theory, brain research, and studies on animal instincts, to help us understand why humans do what we do in families."  —Peter Titelman, PhD, clinical psychologist, editor, Triangles: Bowen Family Systems Theory Perspectives and Emotional Cutoff

"Provides a win-win solution for the challenges facing today's families. . . . He explains why good marriages produce good kids, and provides helpful advice for building a strong marriage. "  —Glenn Firebaugh, PhD, author, Seven Rules for Social Research

"David Code, in a step-wise approach, identifies and addresses how one, in a very practical way, can improve their marriage and thus, the entire family. I recommend his book most highly."  —David D. Sherry, MD, professor of pediatrics, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and University of Pennsylvania

"Stress has become a pervasive problem for couples struggling to balance the hectic lives of their kids with their own demanding jobs. David Code provides powerful preventive medicine that 'inoculates' spouses who are currently doing well, but can benefit from his family-strengthening advice."  —Ron Roel, former editor, Newsday

About the Author

As featured in Parents Magazine, the Wall Street Journal, NPR and the Christian Science Monitor, David Code is a family coach and Episcopal minister. After training at Yale, Princeton, the Sorbonne, and the Bowen Center for the Study of the Family (formerly at Georgetown Medical School), he founded the Center for Staying Married and Raising Great Kids. He lives in State College, Pennsylvania, with his wife and their two children.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: The Crossroad Publishing Company (September 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0824525388
  • ISBN-13: 978-0824525385
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.7 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #80,147 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Jane on September 29, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I'm an Asian woman in my thirties, have a 20-month-old child, have been married more than 4 years, and am working full-time. I rarely read self-help book but I happened to read David Code's article on the web and was fascinated by his insight-- the article explained very well why I have been so emotional lately. Then, I googled his website and found out about his new book. That's how I ended up reading this book.

Based on the book title and cover illustration, I first thought that this book is about marriage counseling. However, that is just a small part of it. (There is no doubt that the book explains very well about the linkage between marriage and parenting.) The book provides a very insightful view for why we blame each other, why we avoid each other, why we are so obsessed with our children, and why we create so many dramas in our life. Once we 'notice' the right cause of all these symptoms (you can find it in the book!) and then, we can 'control' the situation to become better even though our solution is very slow and requires patience.

A few days before I read the book, I had a huge argument with my husband- the largest one ever. I was also very stressed with my parent's long-term visit in this area. This book gave me the right advice when I needed it. I also started to have a lot of peace of mind by merely realizing the root of my emotions. I may need to read this book again, whenever I get short-sighted with parenting my child or get impatient with my husband or my mom.

I highly recommend this book to any person who wants to have better relationships with others / wants to have an inner peace/ wants to raise happy kids /or want to grow up. I am not American, but the book really applies well to Asian culture too.

I don't recommend this book to anyone who does not want to confront (or admit) who they are/ or who cares about symptoms but not the cause of them / or who wants a quick-fix parenting solution.
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Format: Paperback
I liked this book because it answers a question that's always on my mind as future mother: How can I raise well-functioning, healthy kids and nurture my marriage at the same time--without losing my own sense of self in the process?

This book helped me to realize how anxiety about perfect parenting can actually have detrimental effects on the children. So many of my friends tell me they're mystified why the more they kill themselves for their children, the more behavioral issues the children seem to have. This book clearly explains why making one's child the center of one's life is not helping the child in the way we had hoped.

The bottom line is simply this: Kids need the freedom to be kids, and when a parent becomes overly emotionally invested in creating a "perfect" environment for the child, the parent unconsciously makes the child their source of emotional fulfillment. The result is a distancing from one's spouse that can then exacerbate the situation. The parent's needs are not being met by the spouse, and the child is not capable of meeting the emotional needs of the parent--everyone suffers, especially the child.

By recognizing our propensity to this behavior, on account of the best of intentions, the downward spiral can be avoided. The result is freeing. I highly recommend this book to any "type-A" personality with children or considering having children.
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Format: Kindle Edition
His ideas that a mother in an unsatisfying marital relationship seeks that which is missing in the marital relationship in her child and that anxieties of the parents taken over by the child can lead to problems in the child's development and later mature life, seem plausible. He is rather influenced by Bowen (and Michael Kerr) and seemingly ascribes to Bowen's ideas on schizophrenia which I do not think have stood the test of time all that well. In the matter of nature/nurture he is pretty much 100% nurture, which to me is a simplification.

The style is quite anecdotal which should appeal to a certain audience, although his descriptions of middle-class American families seem at times to verge on parody. And at times too general, e.g. he talks about the nature of the mother-child 'addiction' and the necessity for weaning, yes, we know that, thank you, but the issue is the when and the how.

Simplified his - valuable - message is the importance of a good marital relationship being the basis for the child's healthy development; if the parents are ok, the kids will be ok.

The following excerpt sums this aspect up rather well and saves you buying the book:

"To raise happy kids, put your marriage first.
We must regain a balance between tending our marriages and nurturing our children. When our marriages meet our intimacy needs, then we can stop marrying our children. This frees up our kids to build their own identity, learn self-reliance, and become happy, independent adults who pursue their passions in life. Our marriage can also set a great example for their future relationships."

Certainly good ideas in my opinion, but a well-formed article would also have sufficed. And his idea of letting babies cry themselves to sleep in the name of self-regulation is rather dubious and in my opinion harmful. A more interesting work on parenting itself would be Margot Sunderland's 'The Science of Parenting'.
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Format: Paperback
From more than two decades of counseling families in crisis --- We'd like to heartily affirm Rev. David Code's new book.

Code is right-on: Both stress and tension in a marriage are very quickly transferred to children --- who may act out, quit functioning normally, and become highly anxious. Kids are smarter than we realize.

The advice in this book matches what we normally prescribe for couples who remarry: While you're working on blending a new family, make your own relationship as a couple a primary priority. It is. It should be.

Code's book is readable, entertaining, truth-filled and highly useful. Excellent reading for all married couples, including those facing the extra challenges of remarriage or blending a family.

Five stars for a readable, insightful book!

Dr. David & Lisa Frisbie
Del Mar, California
Authors of 12 books including "Happily Remarried"
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