The Secrets of Happy Families: Improve Your Mornings, Rethink Family Dinner, Fight Smarter, Go Out and Play, and Much More by Bruce Feiler is a breakfast buffet book full of tips, ideas, things you might try and things you will never try. It is good.
I'll be sharing a number of things from this book but the just finished glow is still surrounding me and wanted to share something. If you're looking for a book about how to make any part of your family better, you could do much worse than this.
It seems like family books are making their way through my hands more and more. If this is a larger trend, I don't know. A few books from my annual list wouldn't exist without families. I've read the books about Tiger moms and French Mere's and while their stories are good, they don't find the big areas like Feiler does. This being the month about happiness, how could I not include ideas about happy families?
The book explores ideas ranging from getting ready for school to getting ready for vacation and family problems like chores, allowances, and grandparents. All of the tips are good but at the end Feiler summarizes everything he's learned in three major points about what happy families do.
Happy families adapt all the time.
Experiment, change, challenge what you're doing. This idea from the book had a lot of its footing in business, specifically technology. What can those groups of people tell us about these groups of people we live with.
Whether we're talking about the makeup of your family, the strategy you use to get your family out the door every morning, the way you feed your family every night, or the techniques you use to discipline, entertain, or inspire your family, the smartest research shows, and the most effective families know, you have to be flexible.
I know that is is true just focusing on the things our girls can do. Now they can brush their teeth, load the dishwasher, and put on shoes without any help. If we didn't adapt to those things we'd never get anywhere.
Talk. A lot.
Feiler says that you don't need to have big talks about the birds and the bees or constantly solve all your children's problems. The better conversations might be those about your family.
Simply put, if you want a happier family, spend time crafting, refining, and retelling the story of your family's positive moments and your ability to bounce back from the difficult ones. If you tell it, they will come.
This is an idea that Paul Tough examines in How Children Succeed but it's the subtitle that shows us the focus "Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character." Feiler found that when children know about challenges a family member has faced, they're better able to face and conquer challenges themselves.
Mardi Jo Link had her own mantra, "Keep your dobbers up." She didn't know what this meant but remember that her father had always told her this and she took it as a rallying cry. People need stories that move them forward and kids need adults to give it to them.
Go out and play.
"Make fun." Feiler writes. Happiness is action with people. Happiness isn't something that falls on you like snow falls and rests upon a tree branch. Happiness - like knighthood - isn't bestowed at birth, it's something you go find together.
If you want to have a happier family, find some of those family members, make some time, and play.
That seems so easy in words but hard in practice but it reminded me of exercise. Being fit ins't a hard thing to figure out, it's not a puzzle or physic problem. Being fit is eating good foods and moving your body, being happy is half as difficult, it's just moving your body with people you like. Feiler goes on:
Tossing a football. Going Bowling. Getting lost. Making a giant domino trail on the dining room table. Whatever makes you happy, doing it with other family members will make your family happier.
Those are the big ideas, adapt, talk, play. The book is certainly filled with more ideas, some of them quite interesting, but that's all we really need to start making our happy families.