Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Secrets of Happy Families Book Review

I've read a lot of books about family dynamics.  To some extent, they all seem a bit similar.  Recently TLC Books asked me if I'd be interested in reading The Secrets of Happy Families by Bruce Feiler.  I said sure - I'm always up for a few new ideas to improve the way our family is functioning.  I think one of the ways to keep your family happy is just to be consistently thoughtful and intentful in how your family is operating. 

I started reading this book with the assumption that it would be similar to others that I've read.  But I was pleasantly surprised.  Feiler approaches different areas of family functioning by searching out experts in various fields and looking for new ways of improving the family dynamics in a way that works for you.  I love how much he emphasizes open family communication and including each family member.  Often, he applies innovative  business tactics that have been very successful in social networking and businesses.  He tackles touchy topics like resolving conflict, setting an allowance, family reunions, and talking about sex. 

My boys are still a little young to become firmly involved in some of the suggestions.  For example, my 3 year old twins aren't exactly ready to start brainstorming on a family mission statement.  However, I did want to put one of the techniques to the test.  I chose Feiler's suggestions on family dinner.  You've probably all heard the research about how important family dinners are for kids - I've always taken this to heart.  Besides, I grew up in a family where dinner was every night at 5:30, so it's kind of ingrained.  Feiler says that it doesn't have to be dinner though - if your kids are off to sporting events and such in the evenings, make it a family breakfast or a family lunch instead.  The key thing is that everyone is coming together for a meal for the purpose of talking. 

Feiler's suggests that you have discussions of each individual's high and low points from the day.  For a couple of years now we have gone around the table to talk about the favorite part of our day.  But we have never discussed the low point.  I liked this idea, because it gives kids an opening to talk about things that may have bothered them in school or even at home.  Feiler also suggests family meals are a wonderful time to improve vocabulary.  So I've started to try to bring a new word to the table each evening - the first night it was orzo, which was in our soup!  The other idea I liked from The Secrets of Happy Families was to use the family dinner to teach kids about their history - to tell family stories which give kids a feeling of connection and of knowing where they come from.  Do your kids know where their parents met?  Where their grandparents grew up?  Of an illness in the family and how it was handled?  The answers to these questions and more give a child a sense of being part of a larger family.  According to Feiler what has been found in studies is that, "The more children knew about their family's history, the stronger their sense of control over their lives, the higher their self-esteem, and the more successfully they believed their families functioned."

I found this book full of valuable and unique ideas that I plan to try to implement in my family.  We won't use all of them, but I do think we'll be putting several to use.  It's a book I'll be hanging on to, to refer to in the years to come.  If you are looking for new positive ways to improve your family (and who isn't?) this is certainly an excellent choice. 

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book free for review purposes.  The opinions stated above are my own. 

22 comments:

andy said...

Sounds like a great book !! Have a wonderful day

Jill said...

Sounds like a great book! Kind of brings back the values we had growing up. Every Monday at school, we all share our highs and lows from the weekend. It's a great exercise!

Heather said...

This sounds like a really great book! Last year I spent a good amount of time with my husband working on a family mission statement. It was really interesting to get it down on paper. I'm sure that as my kids get older we will try and revisit the mission statement, but as of now it really fits all of us.

I also love the idea of family dinner. We try to do this, but my kids are often eating before my husband gets home from work. So we do tend to do a "family breakfast" instead :-)

My Journey With Candida said...

My Hubs and I try to make time at breakfast to talk about what we will be doing that day, what we did the day before etc...

Jacquelineand.... said...

Those do sound like excellent suggestions, with good sense behind them!

Cat said...

This book sounds wonderful. Wouldn't this be a wonderful wedding or baby shower gift. I plan to stock a couple of copies so I will have them for this purpose. I always trust your book reviews!

Barbara said...

This sounds like such an amazing book. Just recently we started eating meals as a family. It was always me and the boys but my husband started making great efforts to leave work to come join us. It has made a world of difference.

Tina Fariss Barbour said...

This is a well-written review, and it sounds like a good book, too. We always had dinner together as a family growing up, and I still like to have dinner together with Larry, even though there's just the two of us! I think it's a good time to really listen to each other and talk about things in an unhurried manner.

JDaniel4's Mom said...

This really sounds like a wonderful book.

Debby@Just Breathe said...

Sounds like a good book. Thanks for the review.

Grandma Bonnie said...

I like the idea of sharing family history at meal times. When my children were in elementary and junior high school it was easy to set a time for dinner as they entered high school and had sports,jobs and volunteer work it was not so easy.

Gail Dixon (Louisiana Belle) said...

A friend recently said that she sees so little "intentional parenting" these days. The world would be such a better place if all parents took seriously the raising of their children. I admire your devotion to your family.

Our Neck of the Woods said...

I really like the idea of asking about the high and low points of the day. Never thought about that! I'll have to do that more often.

Dawn said...

So much more interaction needed between family now days...looks a good book.
I love mealtime when all my kiddos are home...a rarity these days as they are growing up...but we try to do "Highs and Lows" from our days and share that way....if only for a meal:)

Valerie said...

Sounds like a great book!

A Quiet Corner said...

Sounds like a book with interesting concepts, Baby Girl with positive results!...:)JP

Buttons said...

Oh this sounds like a great book. I always knew where my Grandparents came from got married and such but there were the day to day things that I did not know like what they loved to do and what they truly believe. My girls know all this about me (blog) and I thin it does make a difference.B

Stephanie said...

I do love the idea of a family dinner, but am almost embarassed to admit we are lucky if we all get to eat together twice a week!! I should try and do the family lunch!

Tweedles -- that's me said...

I think it sounds like a terrific book. Help is always a good thing!
love
tweedles

heathertlc said...

I'm glad you found some valuable tips that you can use within your own family. Best of luck in implementing more as your children grow!

Thanks for being a part of the tour.

trish said...

I think you could write your own book! "I think one of the ways to keep your family happy is just to be consistently thoughtful and intentful in how your family is operating." Well said!

Eating together is important in our family too. My husband and I have always eaten together, but we really started including our son around 9 or 10 months, which was around the time he started eating more solids. Dinner is such a fun time for us but I've never thought about some of the things I could bring up to discuss during this time. I love your ideas and the ideas you got from the book. I'll be putting those to use in my own home!

Kim said...

This sounds like a good one too!