How to have a happy family

Buchatsky says that 80% of his book is based on his own experiences as a father.

illustrative (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Many parents feel like they’ve lost control of their children. For them and others, Vitaly Buchatsky, an engineer who works in the medical device field, has just published his second book, How to Raise Happy Children, II-The Way Up (Niv Books). Buchatsky hopes that this book will be at least as successful as his first book, a bestseller that was published in 2016 and has sold more than 50,000 copies. The book, which has already been translated into English, is currently available on Amazon and came in first place in eight different parenting categories.
Despite not having any formal education in the field, Buchatsky says, “My desire to be a good father motivates me to learn about child psychology, and sometimes I feel like I’m learning about parenting faster than when I was studying engineering. It’s there inside of me, and I feel my knowledge growing with each breath. My children Adam, five, and Tom, three, provide me with the impetus to always be learning more. Apparently, the way I put all my thoughts into words resonates with lots of other parents, too.”
Buchatsky, 36, is married to Yulia, who is studying nursing, and they live with their kids in Bat Yam. Buchatsky immigrated to Israel at the age of seven with his parents and brother Roman, who was three at the time, and is now a successful producer who made a video clip for Static & Ben El Tavori. His parents divorced when he was 12, and his mother raised the two boys on her own.
Before his kids were born, Buchatsky would work around the clock. When he became a parent, he began wondering what he needed to do to become the best father possible. With his long working hours, he began wondering if that was even possible. He began doing Internet research, took parenting courses and read lots of books on the topic. He even created a Facebook page titled “How to Raise Happy Children,” and built a website titled UPkids.
“Within six months I had over 60,000 followers, and currently there are more than 100,000,” boasted Buchatsky with a big smile. “I would upload posts, pictures, and articles – some of which I’d written myself – to my Facebook page. One day, one of my followers suggested that I publish a conglomeration of my posts as a book, and that’s how my first book came to be. Following its staggering success, I received lots of encouragement to write a second book.”
Buchatsky’s new book includes many examples from his own personal day-to-day experiences. He offers advice and practical tools for how to encourage your children to be the unique people they are; help them fulfill their goals and dreams; have a positive influence on the family unit; deal with oppositional behavior; motivate your children to action; help them develop positive traits, such as perseverance and determination; and create excellent relationships between family members.
The book comes with a great app that was developed in Israel called GreatBoox, which combines a copy of the printed book and lots of Web-based content, including images you can download and print, exercises, inspirational videos and recordings of stories you can play for your children.
“The book is a compilation of some of the most popular posts, to which I added lots of anecdotes from my own life,” explained Buchatsky. “I describe how I’ve solved certain problems. Each chapter is only two pages long and includes lots of parenting tips for kids, ranging from birth until 18-year-olds. I was even approached once by parents asking me for advice about their 24-year-old son.”
What kind of difficulties do parents face nowadays?
“A lot of parents get very anxious when their children don’t listen to them, don’t behave the way they want them to, and don’t carry out tasks they were given. Some parents get stressed out when their children are being lazy, and don’t feel like doing anything. Also, some parents go crazy when their kids bombard them with whiny complaints like, ‘I’m bored.’
“Many kids just haven’t learned how to keep themselves occupied. Parents sometimes ask me for advice regarding how to help their kids who don’t have any friends and who don’t play with other kids. I can’t answer that type of question in one chapter. That type of issue requires an entire book of its own.”
Give me an example of something you do with your own kids that can help other parents.
“So, when kids say they don’t want to do something, it’s because they’re bored. In my house, we don’t ever use the word lazy. I believe there’s no such thing as laziness, just lack of motivation. Not many people like to run two kilometers, but if I were to offer them a million dollars, they’d put on their running shoes right there and then.
“It’s the same way with kids. I’m always thinking in the back of my mind how to make each activity interesting so that they will be motivated to do it. For example, my older son can do nine pull-ups, which is pretty amazing for a kid his age. I’ve never forced him to do even one. But when I saw how much he loves climbing, I introduced different ways of motivating him. I took toothpicks and told him, ‘For every pull-up you do, I’m going to put one toothpick into this ball of modeling clay. After you’ve done a whole lot of pull-ups, you’ll have a porcupine!’
“After about two weeks, he got bored of the porcupine, so I suggested we could build a small house. In short, there’s no such thing as laziness – just lack of motivation. You must offer your children challenges so that they’ll learn how to challenge themselves in the future.”
Don’t you think it’s a bit pretentious to be teaching others about parenting when you yourself have no formal education in that field?
“Well, I don’t really feel like I’m teaching. I mean it’s not like I’m making up anything new. Everything I say has already been put out there on the Internet. I’m just presenting it to parents in a more unique format. Everything I talk about has been said before. I’ve just figured out a special way to present it.”
Buchatsky says that 80% of his book is based on his own experiences as a father.
“Rule No. 1 for achieving happiness within the family is that if one family member is unhappy, no one in the family can be happy. It’s important that each person be as happy as possible. The first step is to identify who is suffering and why.
“Step No. 2 is to get rid of the phrase, ‘There’s nothing we can do about it,’ because there’s always something you can do. When you finally admit that there’s a problem, that someone in the family is miserable and that this affects the entire family, then you’re already halfway to a solution.”
Buchatsky also travels to communities all around Israel and gives parenting lectures he calls, “The Way Up.” Another one of his mottos is that we must stop using the phrase, “I can’t” and instead say, “I’m not willing.”
“For example, when my son tells me that he can’t poop on his own, I ask him, ‘Can you turn on the light in the bathroom?’ to which he responds, yes. ‘Can you pull your own pants down?’ Also yes. ‘Can you sit on the toilet?’ Yes. In other words, he already knows how to do 90% of the work required to poop on his own. If we just break down each situation into all its components, and show our children that in actuality they know how to do so much more than they thought they did, it’s much simpler. And then when they succeed on their own, and you congratulate them, they feel so accomplished.
“Or say for example your child says that learning to ride a bicycle it’s really hard. At the end, once she’s succeeded, it’s important to review the process with her. You can say, ‘Did you notice how before you started you couldn’t ride at all, but then you tried a few times and in the end you succeeded?’
“It’s important that our children see how, when they are ready and willing to do something they’ve never tried before, they can succeed if they just get started and put in the effort. This is true in every part of life. You can go one step further and ask your child to recount to you what the process was like and how it made her feel. Of course, it always helps when we offer them examples of obstacles we ourselves have come across in our own lives, and explain how we succeeded in the end.”
What do you recommend parents do about smartphone addiction?
“First of all, we need to start by talking about healthy and effective communication skills within the home. My recommendation is that when the family gets home, everyone puts their cellphone on silent mode, and deposits it in a basket by the front door. And then, every 30 or 60 minutes, they can check it as needed. The world’s not going to implode if they haven’t checked their phone for a whole hour. For children who are already addicted, strict guidelines must be set and enforced, including specific hours of usage and what is allowed during that time. My kids are still young and so don’t have their own phones yet. My wife and I let them use ours for 30 minutes a day.”
Does your wife agree with all of your methodologies?
“Yes, we are 100% on the same page. She agrees with all of my guidelines. Both of us regularly read articles and books on the subject. Of course, there are always issues in our family, too, but I feel very relaxed because we’re engaged in a process, and I know that at some point we will succeed in dealing with each problem as it arises. I’ve never seen a soldier who still wears diapers or who has trauma from having to sleep in a different room. Of course, there are plenty of problems that I’m not qualified to handle, and so I don’t discuss them.”
Like what, for example?
“Seventy percent of the children in my older son’s kindergarten class already know their ABCs. My son doesn’t, but that’s okay. If later on he needs help, we’ll get him that help. But for now I’m not worried, because each child has his own natural strengths. Some are good climbers, others are very optimistic, and some are extra sensitive. Everyone is born with certain attributes.”
Buchatsky concluded by saying that he’s also learned how to be a good dad by spending just one hour a day with his kids.
“If for one hour each day you focus 100% of your attention on your children, you will see a huge difference. It doesn’t matter if you spend the whole day with your kids if you’re not really engaged with them.”
Translated by Hannah Hochner.