Do Happy Families Have Secrets?

Last month I heard an interesting interview with the author of a new parenting book titled The Secrets of Happy Families, by Bruce Feiler. After hearing the title of the book, I wondered if happy families really have secrets. My family is happy and the things we do are not all that uncommon. No secrets here. Then I began to wonder if I was missing something. What more should my family be doing to be happier? So my curiosity was peaked by the time Feiler began describing the main points of his book. He described  a “new” idea that he called “Agile Family Management” which is a concept borrowed from corporate America and is centered around high levels of communication through the “family meeting” which ideally leads to decision making from the bottom up, in other words, let the children in on the conversation. Feiler also suggests that families create a “family motto” together. The family motto should reflect the major values and priorities shared by all family members.

“Agile Family Management” sounds awfully familiar to me. I think it’s what we do when we truly listen to our children and respond with interest and compassion. The “family meeting” sounds like what we do at dinnertime (which Feiler also suggests that we not worry about any longer) when we ask each other how things are going and solve family dilemmas and such.  This concept has also been borrowed by classroom teachers for years. In the field of education we call them “class meetings” and they are very powerful. And finally, the “family motto” sounds like a formal way of restating our family values.

While I find that many of the ideas brought up in the interview are not wildly innovative, it was nice to be reminded of the things that parents can do that will make a difference in the relationships they have with their children. It is this notion that motivates me to pick up the book and check it out. After I do, I will let you know what I think. If you are interested in listening to the interview check out this link to weekend edition that aired on February 25, 2013.

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