Book Review: The Secrets of Happy Families

Since becoming a parent, I’ve read quite a few parenting books. I haven’t read too many lately, since by this point I’m feeling mostly comfortable with the baby/todder/preschool years. But I was intrigued by “The Secrets of Happy Families” by ┬áBruce Feiler. This book is a great handbook for families who, as the author states in the introduction, “have survived the parental death march of sippy cups and diaper caddies”. A guide for families who are facing the challenge of raising children in a modern world.

The author was upfront about his goal: Instead of “5 easy steps” or “Six Simple Truths”, he strove to gather a great list of best practices for improving your family. His writing style was interesting and relevant. Confession time: Reading a non-fiction book usually takes me months (or longer) to finish, but this book pulled me in and I had it finished in less than week.

I did like how a lot of his ideas rang true to the principles I have studied in “The Family: A Proclamation to the World“. It is always nice to see the world, and research, catching up to the words of inspired prophets.

So if you are looking for some new ideas or best practices to try at home, check this one out. Below are my notes.

Happy Families consistently:

1) Adapt All the Time: think agile. Have weekly family meetings. Adjust and make changes as needed as you go along.

2) Talk. A Lot: Create a family narrative. Your children should know your family history. Share stories about parents and grandparents, especially their successes and failures.

3) Go Out and Play: Make fun. Play games. Take vacations. Have get-togethers. Invent goofy traditions. “Whatever makes you happy, doing it with other family members will make your family happier.”

Since reading this book I’ve been reflecting on our family traditions. Traditions are so important and give your family identity. What does it mean to be a Tanner? Chineese food for Christmas, dad making biscuits for Sunday breakfast, setting off our own fireworks for the fourth of July, etc. I like the idea of goofy traditions–so I’m on a quest to see how we can strengthen and add to our traditions.

“Happiness is not something ready-made. It comes from your own actions”–Dalai Lama

Ideas for Family Meetings: 1) What went well in our family this week? 2) What things could we improve in our family? 3) What things will you commit to working on this week?

The Agile Family Manifesto: 1) Solutions exist 2) Empower the children 3) Parents aren’t invincible 4) Create a safe zone 5) Build in flexibility

Chapter on Family Dinner–“What you talk about is more important that what you eat (or when you eat it)”

Hunger Games for mealtime: Word of the Day, Autobiography Night, Pain Points (bring up a dilemma that a family member is facing, work together to devise solutions), Word Game Night (thesaurus, alliteration, fill in the blank, whats the difference between?), Bad & Good (Share a bad thing about the day, then share a good thing)

Chapter on creating a family mission statement.

Chapter on how to handle marital conflict.

Chapter on allowance. Bribe your children the right way: “Here is five dollars. If you add three vegetables this month, you get to keep it. If you don’t, you have to give it back.”

Chapter on talking to your kids about sex. “It’s not a talk. It’s a conversation.”

Chapter on how you organize and decorate your home says a lot about your family. Arrange your furniture to enhance your family priorities.

Chapter on family vacations. Being prepared with a checklist, work in mission impossible or amazing race type games into your vacation to build excitement and strengthen family bonds.

Chapter on sports: Don’t pressure your kids. Just “Shut up and cheer!”

Chapter on family reunions.

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