The Secrets of Happy Families

Any time you add a new family member or start a new school year or have a phase change of some sort, you’re in the scary/awesome position of being forced able to re-evaluate everything.  Are we doing the things we say are most important?  How often do the bathrooms really need to be cleaned?  What are we going to do about these attitude problems?  And why on EARTH am I spending so long making breakfast every morning?  

Basically, for me anyway, having four children now means I am taking a fresh look at what it means for us to be a happy family.  Perhaps because I’m in this unique spot, or perhaps because of my kids’ ages (7 1/2, 6, 4 1/2, 3 months) Bruce Feiler’s book The Secrets of Happy Families: Improve Your Mornings, Rethink Family Dinner, Fight Smarter, Go Out and Play, and Much More struck me as an amazingly helpful and easy-to-read-and-implement resource.

The book covers a range of research and anecdotal accounts about happy families, all of which is pretty interesting, but the things that stuck out to me most included:

  • Getting past some of the hassle of logistics by using checklists and putting kids in charge of things they can handle (this one probably wouldn’t work as well if your kids are under five)
  • Using family meetings to help us all keep perspective
  • Making up fun traditions and using meal time conversations more effectively to give children an “intergenerational perspective” to build family identity and help them cope with challenges
  • Making a cool graphic of your family’s purpose statement–a collection of words, phrases, and ideas that express your family’s core values and what makes you unique
  • REALLY helpful ideas on how to teach kids to have productive conflict. With elementary aged kids the squabbling can sort of take over, and I remember as a kid feeling helpless from not knowing how to avoid fighting with my brother.  The conflict handling ideas seem very doable for kids (as well as helpful for adults)
  •  Making sure you include your kids in your decor–hanging some of their artwork, incorporating mementoes of trips they went on, and so forth acts like “visual comfort food” for kids

I found so many helpful ideas in The Secrets of Happy Families, but I also found it to be very encouraging.  As the author points out,

“All families have conflict; strong families have enough communal high points to outshine the low ones.”

While it might prove a bit theoretical for parents of really young kids, I think if your kids are in the K and up range, you’d really get a lot out of this book and I highly recommend it!

What is something your family does that makes you happy?

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

3 thoughts on “The Secrets of Happy Families

  1. Verrry interesting. I’m especially interesting in the conflict resolution part. As for delegating to the kids, I’ve been trying to do this more and it is really nice to be able to do so. Summer vacation is a good time for such training. I’ve got a few more weeks and plan on teaching them at least one other chore.

  2. Adding this book to the reading list. With starting school this past week (with Tapestry–thank you for your help last spring!!) and looking toward adding a new family member in November, I most certainly understand that obligatory re-evaluation!

  3. I love a lot of things we do that make me happy! But one of them is watching my husband make cookies with the kids, reading their journal entries, and really random, but looking at “cat pictures” on the Internet, which is quite hilarious.

    I have had this book on my to-read list, but just opted to start another book instead. After your review, I think I’ll go for this next! I just finished “Duct Tape Parenting,” which seems to have some similarly helpful concepts.

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