The secrets of happy families
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Family Matters1 of 11
By Paige Brettingen
Forget about mandatory family dinners, daily chores and the mutually-dreaded birds-and-the-bees talk. Instead, New York Times family columnist, Bruce Feiler, shares a slew of unconventional parenting wisdom in his new book The Secrets of Happy Families. With advice culled from Silicon Valley business execs, the U.S. military and elsewhere, Feiler offers up practical tips to raising kids. Here are ten of our favorites.
Play & Powwow2 of 11
In looking for how strategies to build strong communication, Feiler went to Silicon Valley where the nation's top companies use Agile Management Techniques. Feiler translated it into weekly family meetings. Two quick hints from Feiler: Start each meeting by playing a short game and keep the discussion under 20 minutes.
Motivating Motto3 of 11
Companies and families are actually not too different when it comes success. One thing they have in common is that they both need a playbook with a set of values that the team can relate to. "What makes families good is they have a clear destination in mind and they have a flight plan to get there," Feiler writes in his book.
He suggests coming up with a family motto and keeping it short and sweet. An example he gives from the animated film Meet the Robinsons? "Keep moving forward."
Family Breakfast?4 of 11
One of Feiler's favorite tips: Don't worry about family dinner. "We all know family dinner is a great idea but it doesn't work for many of our schedules," he says. What's more, you don't need a long, drawn out meal to connect—just ten minutes will do. So, if dinner isn't realistic, try putting those 10 minutes toward family breakfasts or family bedtime snacks.
Having "The Talk"5 of 11
Feiler advises not to make the sex talk with your kids a one-time thing. It should be an ongoing conversation and should start sooner than most parents think. "If you wait until they're 12 or 13, they're already tuning you out. It's much easier to talk to a 7 or 8-year old," he says. Also, he suggests not making the conversation too formal. Talk to your kids when you're side by side—when you're taking a walk or driving.
Girl Power6 of 11
Want to find a quicker way to solve family issues? Then make sure to have at least two females present during difficult conversations. As Feiler learned from an executive at Google: "If you have one woman in a difficult conversation, she'll defer to the men," he said. "But if you have more than one, women's natural instincts toward collaboration will kick in."
History Lesson7 of 11
Feiler's own family plays the "Do You Know?" game on a regular basis to teach their kids about the family's history. "The more they know they come from a long family history and that people have overcome bad times, the better equipped children are to deal with their own setbacks," he says.
Work It Out8 of 11
Have your kids choose the chores they most prefer from a list rather than assigning them. Also, have them select their own punishments. "Our instinct as parents is just to boss our children around. It's easier and we're usually right," says Feiler. "But our goal as parents is to help our children get the skills to be independent and the more they practice evaluating their own work, the better they'll be able to do that when we're not around which is what really matters."
Good Behavior9 of 11
When it comes to disciplining your kids, Feiler says to sit, not stand. And choose an upright, cushioned chair. "If you sit on a rigid chair, you'll be rigid," says Feiler. "If you sit on a cushioned chair you'll be more flexible and the conversation will go better."
Making It Count10 of 11
Don't shortchange on allowances. This financial advice comes straight from billionaire Warren Buffett's banker, Byron Trott, who believes moneymaking lessons serve kids far beyond their piggy-bank days. In the words of Trott, as Feiler share in the book: "It's much better to bike into the ditch with a $6 allowance instead of a $60,000 salary."
Try, Try Again11 of 11
Building a strong, happy family doesn't happen overnight, and Feiler doesn't pretend that it's easy. But there are certain things that all happy families have in common, he says. "They adapt all the time. They talk. A lot. They go out and play. And they work at it," he says. "Want to have a happier family? Try."
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