Posts Tagged ‘ The Secrets of Happy Families ’

Bruce Feiler, author of ‘The Secrets of Happy Families’ Gives Tips on Having a Family Meeting

Friday, March 15th, 2013

The Secrets of Happy Families by Bruce Feiler keeps popping up on Amazon’s bestseller lists, and it’s a really great book for tips and tricks that can immediately uplift your family’s function and mood. In his latest release, popular writer Feiler (Walking the Bible) looks in unconventional places for advice on domestic bliss. He adapts nuggets of wisdom from green berets, coaches, software engineers, business people and branding experts for everyday in-home use.

My favorite bit comes from a business program called agile development. You don’t need to know the fancy term. What it means is to have a good old-fashioned (maybe new-fashioned) family meeting once a week. We’re holding ours on Sundays before dinner, and this is genius. If the kids are crying too much at mealtimes, I don’t have to address it on the spot. We’ll discuss the issue as a group during the scheduled time. Every issue–good and bad–can be hashed out then when everyone is feeling warm, fuzzy and cooperative.

Feiler believes family meetings are great for parents with kids of all ages. But having them is trickier for those of us with really young ones. Feiler sent me a how-to guide that’s specifically geared to Parents readers:

You can start when they’re young, though it will be change as they get older.  Three tips:

Bruce Feiler’s Tips for Having a Family Meeting with Young Kids

1. Keep it short. No more than 20 minutes, maybe shorter with little kids.

2. Start with a short welcome game. We have someone lead with the sound Ma, Ma, Ma and others follow. Then we stop and say, “Welcome to the family meeting.” We end with the same game,  and then “Thank you for the family meeting.”

3. Ask the kids important questions–and listen to their answers. Examples are: “What worked well in our family this week? What didn’t go well?  What will we work on this week?” Have everyone give answers, then vote on two ideas to work on. Let the kids recommend the rewards and punishments.

I needed my 7-year-old twins to cooperate more with their daily to-dos such as piano lessons, walking the dog and doing their homework. I asked them for suggestions. They came up with a penny reward jar. Every time they go above and beyond their duties–with a good attitude–they earn one penny. Once they reach 20 pennies, they get to pick out a $20 toy.

Oh my. We follow the above rules perfectly starting with a silly “Welcome to Our Family Meeting” song that I made up on the spot. What a difference this family idea meeting has made. We’ve had much more peaceful evenings for seven straight days. Thank you, Bruce!

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10 Books I Can’t Wait to Read in 2013

Monday, December 3rd, 2012

Bookworms will love the lineup of parenting memoirs and advice that are scheduled for release in 2013. I know I am. Here are the books I can’t wait to read in the New Year. Stay tuned for my write ups about them on this blog.

The Heavy: A Mother Daughter Memoir
by Dara-Lynn Weiss
Did you hear about the mom who put her 7-year-old daughter on a strict diet and wrote about it for Vogue? Author Dara Lynn-Weiss caused such a stir that she got a book deal. This memoir tells the story from start to finish–how the doctor labeled her little girl obese, and how this mother decided to take care of it. The book is supposed to be brutally honest, and Lynn-Weiss claims that her insights will help other parents in the same situation. (Jan. 15)

Never Look a Polar Bear in the Eye: A Family Field Trip to the Arctic’s Edge in Search of Adventure, Truth, and Mini-Marshmallows
by Zac Unger
In this memoir, one dad takes his family to Antarctica–Churchill, Manitoba to be exact. In the “Polar Bear Capital of the World,” he examines a faraway place that’s one of Mother Nature’s last strongholds. A seasoned writer, he observes the human relationship with the great bears. And he took his wife and two kids there! (Jan. 29)

The Food Allergy Mama’s Easy, Fast Family Meals
by Kelly Rudnicki
The author runs the helpful and popular blog, The Food Allergy Mama, and she also wrote the companion book The Food Allergy Mama’s Baking BookShe has five kids, one with severe food allergies. All recipes are free of milk, butter, cheese, eggs and nuts. She uses easy-to-find, inexpensive ingredients to make dishes like oatmeal fudge bars. (Feb. 5)

The Secrets of Happy Families
by Bruce Feiler
Popular New York Times columnist and best-selling author promises another warm and helpful book. He often writes beautifully about religion (Walking the Bible), but this one focuses on innovative ways to connect as a family. He didn’t go to psychologists for advice but instead to Silicon Valley execs and folks on the set of Modern Family. Some of the surprising advice in this book will be to ditch the sex talk, don’t worry about family dinner and let your kids pick their own punishments. (Feb. 19)

The Still Point of the Turning World
by Emily Rapp
Rapp’s books (Poster Child) and articles are beautiful to read, but her piece in the New York Times called Notes from a Dragon Mom was particularly heartbreaking. In it, she writes about the short life of her young son Ronan who is diagnosed with Tay-Sachs. In her trademark way, she gently takes readers on her family’s difficult journey. (March 7)

French Twist: An American Mom’s Experiment in Parisian Parenting
by Catherine Crawford
For readers who were into in the controversial book Bringing Up Bebe, this book offers another intimate look into the secrets of French parenting. Instead of going to Paris to immerse her family in French ways, the author brings French attitudes to Brooklyn. She writes about her European hands-off approach and how it worked magnificently–most of the time–with her two kids. Now they eat lamb chops! (March 12)

Raising Cubby: A Father and Son’s Adventures with Asperger’s, Trains, Tractors, and High Explosives
by John Elder Robison
Diagnosed with Asperger’s at age 40, this dad writes about the adventures he has raising his son Cubby. Irreverent, hilarious and a little dark, this book is gives readers an inside look at what it’s like to be a person on the autism spectrum. He hopes to inspire his readers to embrace and celebrate misfits and geeks. If you’ve seen or read Running with Scissors, you might have met John–he is Augusten Burroughs’ brother. (March 12)

Parenting: Illustrated with Crappy Pictures
by Amber Dusik
Hiliarious Parents’ writer Dusik finally gets to crack readers up with her own parenting book, and yes, the pictures are really bad. She’s a popular blogger, but in this book she delves into life with kids while sharing stories. Silly ones like the time her child asked if clowns will throw pies at her at the circus. She’s aiming for a funny run of stories and essays along the lines of Jenny Lawson’s Let Pretend this Never Happened. (March 19)

The Object of My Conception
by Elisabeth Rohm
Rohm, best known for her role on Law and Order, blogged about her infertility for, and she was overwhelmed by the positive responses from women who were going through the same thing. In her memoir, she tells the story of her fertility issues, her IVF treatments and her successful journey into motherhood. (April 9)

Learning to Listen: A Life Caring for Children
by T. Berry Brazelton
Fans of this caring and famous pediatrician will be interested in the story of his life. From growing up in Texas to heading to Princeton and Harvard to diving into research on newborn babies, this book tells the story of a great man in his own words. You probably know his seminal book Touchstones, a handbook for all parents of babies from birth to age 3. (April 9)

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