Tag Archives: the secrets of happy families

Checklists and Family Meetings.

First, I’d like to tell you to buy Bruce Feiler’s book.  (Disclaimer– I don’t know Bruce Feiler, though I just started following him on Twitter 😉  I think you should buy it because: that’s how authors get public credit for their writing, plus royalties (eventually), plus orders for second printings, and because based on the introduction + first chapter, I can tell this is a book you should have in your parenting library.

CHECKLISTS I have long been a promoter of simple checklists (that you don’t necessarily need to “check off” but that you can “check with your eyes”) and family meetings.  Chapter one has reminded me how empowering checklists are for the entire family (nagging almost gone– just “check the list”).  Our morning checklist (made easier now because everyone can read, but before we did pictures) is basic– socks,  shoes, know what coat, gloves, book, LUNCH, homework folder or drama notebook or not, hair, teeth brushed for real with toothpaste, face washed.  Roughly in order, posted at child’s-eye-level.  For us there is no actual place to “check off”.  And it works.  Who made the list?  We did it together, and I typed it up and printed it out.  We’ve experimented with writing our own, decorating, etc.  Typed works best for us– maybe because it looks official?

FAMILY MEETINGS Family meetings can be another important part of successful family life.  Our lives are filled with too much to manage (logistical and emotional) without some kind of weekly check-in.  This chapter explains some of the nuances of the meeting, including best questions to ask.  As the wife of an author, I can’t give the secrets of any book away, but I will say that I am 100% sure our family meetings will improve.  I looked at the first page in our binder I keep for family meetings– we’ve been having them since 2006!  I hadn’t quite realized it’s been that long.  We’ve gone through phases of having them once a month, once a week, but there are definitely times we’ve forgotten to have one at all.  And, we had been starting with gratitude (everyone goes around saying something they are grateful for about someone else at the table) but gratitude practice is not for a meeting– that’s something else.  I loved the book Cheaper by the Dozen (check out the vintage cover!) when I was younger, and understood even then the beauty of routine and efficiency– how it can actually make more room for enjoyment.

It’s all I can do to not read more– but I’m pacing myself.  A chapter every few days.  If I can hold out!

UPDATE:  Our family meetings have changed exponentially.  We’ve shifted the focus to “we” and it creates a lot of space for people to be more accountable for themselves.  We can also refer back to goals we’ve set for the week by referencing our meeting– again, a shared experience.

Bruce Feiler, your book is in my hands and I am taking it seriously.

One of the things I want to do most with my askyourfriendkira world is help filter all the “parenting noise” as a friend of mine once put it.  I love reading, and I respect people who take on “parenting” since it is massively intense and constant.   I’ve also realized that parenting doesn’t exist in a vacuum– it’s hard to write about “parenting” without including everything else– my site’s sub-sub-title is a “family lifestyle reference site”.  Wordy, but for good reason.

So, how excited am I that Bruce Feiler, an author who I like (NYTimes, etc.) has written a book called The Secrets of Happy Families.  Instead of going to “parenting” experts– he connected with people who are experts of the components of family life. I’m excited– but mostly because he is addressing ALL OF IT… “I have tried to write the book I have most wanted to read as a spouse, parenting, uncle, sibling, and adult child.”  So, Bruce, you had me at the Introduction, and I’m ready to read.

Over the next couple of weeks, I’m going to blog more frequently about the book and what I’ve gleaned.  I’ll let you know what our family is already doing (hint: we have family meetings, though not every week, and we have a morning checklist for the kids so they are responsible for their everyday world) and what we work in as a result of my reading.