The 4 Habits of Raising Joy-Filled Kids • Marcus Warner & Chris M. Coursey

A Simple Model for Developing Your Child’s Maturity – At Every Stage

June 2021 • Paperback • 978-0-8024-2172-2

Is “Joy-Building” the secret to raising mature healthy kids?

Joy-filled kids aren’t always happy kids, but they do know how to work for and wait for what is truly satisfying in life. In The Four Habits of Raising Joy-Filled Kids you will discover a tool box full of skills that you can use with your children to help them grow in maturity and live with greater joy.

These tools help your kids, from infants to teens, build skills like:

  • Regulating upset emotions so they can return to joy
  • Forming a stable identity that doesn’t change with each new emotion
  • Developing discernment to distinguish between what is satisfying and what is only temporarily pleasurable
  • Discovering heart values and not just living to please others
  • Building “joy bonds” rather than “fear bonds”

The skills you’ll learn in The Four Habits of Raising Joy-Filled Kids will not only help you parent your children well, but they will also help you grow joy in your family.


Marcus Warner (M.Div., Th.M. and D.Min. Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) is the president of Deeper Walk International. He is a former pastor and college professor who has written several books on topics ranging from how to study the Bible to spiritual warfare, emotional healing, and leadership. Marcus has done training events for organizations such as Navigators, Willow Creek Prison Ministry, and Moody Church. He has traveled the world with Deeper Walk equipping people on the front lines of ministry with practical tools for dealing with root issues that keep people and ministries stuck and unable to go deeper into what God has for them.

Chris Coursey is an ordained minister, pastoral counselor, published author, and international speaker. He and his wife, Jen, lead and design the THRIVE Training Program that uses brain-based exercises to train leaders, families, and communities in the 19 relational skills and the Immanuel Lifestyle. They are passionate about helping people acquire the skills to make relationships work. Chris and Jen have two boys, Matthew and Andrew.


You can’t be a parent without feeling, at times, that for all the sense of reward and satisfaction in raising a child, it’s also really, really hard. But why?

We think we’ve discovered a surprising reason why.

At the heart of this book is a unique idea: that families exist to grow joy. A clinical psychologist who has dealt with a lot of messy (and often scary) family dynamics through the years recently told me, “I’ve asked a lot of people what they thought the purpose of a family was, and none of them ever said that the purpose of a family was to grow joy.” We want to change that. In fact, we hope this book launches a joy revolution, because we are convinced that transforming “low-joy” families into high-joy families can change the world.

What do “low-joy” families look like? When I (Chris) met my future wife, Jen, she could hardly get out of bed. Jen grew up amid pervasive fear and depression. As a child, she struggled with suicidal thoughts and hopelessness. The depression was smothering her. It was hard for her to find hope, much less joy. Today, however, she and I train people in the skills and habits of joy-filled living.

This turnaround didn’t happen overnight. It happened as Jen discovered specific skills she was missing. It was during this process that we met Dr. Jim Wilder and discovered the neuroscience of joy. Over time, we began intensive work focused in developing the missing skills in both of our lives. Eventually, with Dr. Wilder’s guidance, we developed a training program that helps others grow these important skills.

Jen’s story offers hope at several levels.

  • Low-joy beginnings don’t mean low-joy futures are inevitable.
  • People raised in low-joy families aren’t doomed to raise low-joy kids themselves.
  • Skills and habits can be developed that increase our own ability to live with joy.
  • Those skills and habits can be passed on to our kids.

The primary purpose of this book is to introduce you to four habits for passing important skills on to your kids to equip them to live with joy in a low-joy world.

Raising joy-filled kids doesn’t mean our kids are happy all the time. That isn’t even a desirable goal. Trying to keep our kids happy all the time just spoils them. Joy-filled kids see life as an adventure. They life with confidence that they can do hard things, develop curiosity and creativity, succeed at what is important, and recover from failure. They learn how to find the joy that is available to each of us every day of our lives and develop the skills to bounce back from hard experiences. In this sense, parenting is all about building the habits that grow our own capacity for joy and instilling those habits into our children.


If we were created for joy, and if every relational system in the world is modeled, ultimately, after the family, then who would not want to know how to raise joy-filled children who themselves then go on to be conduits of that joy in every institution they occupy? With The 4 Habits of Raising Joy-Filled Kids, Chris Coursey and Marcus Warner have given us a gem of a book that not only will change how you parent but also bring deep, lasting hope to all of your relational interactions. Read this book prepared to work. Read it prepared to be changed. But mostly, read it for the joy that is waiting for you as you do.
– Curt Thompson
MD, Author, The Soul of Shame and Anatomy of the Soul

Chris and Marcus are rock stars of clarity and practicality. They make the cutting-edge brain science of attachment understandable and useful. As a psychotherapist and a wounded healer, I have spent my life helping adults recover from early childhood attachment wounds. What a joy it is to read such clear guidance for parents longing to do a better job but not knowing what it looks like.
– Margaret M. Webb
MA, Clinical Psychology, Wheaton College Graduate School; cofounder of Alive and Well, Inc., and Director of Immanuel Encounter Training

Bravo to Warner and Coursey for creating a stellar guide to parenting that integrates the wisdom of human development, attachment theory, brain science, and relational skills into a practical, approachable book. This is the best parenting book I have ever read because it addresses one of the heartaches of our world: that so few people understand what children and adults need—as well as what they need to master—to become joyful, resilient adults who are impacting our world for the good.
Elizabeth Moll Stalcup
PHD, executive director of Healing Center International and author of Whispers in the Storm, Miracles, and the Facing Life’s Losses workbook