New York Times bestselling author Bruce Feiler is no different from the rest of us. He disagrees with his wife, scolds his children, and butts heads with his siblings and parents over what’s best for them. Rather than just muddling through challenging family and life moments, Bruce spent a year experimenting with various methodologies to add more harmony to his family. The result of that experimentation is his bestselling book, The Secrets of Happy Families.
Determined to find the smartest solutions and the most cutting-edge research about families, Bruce gathered team-building exercises and problem-solving techniques from the most creative minds—from Silicon Valley to the Green Berets—and tested these ideas with his wife and kids. The result is a lively, original look at how we can create stronger parent/child relationships, manage the chaos of our lives, teach our kids values and grit, and have more fun together.
The Secrets of Happy Families includes more than two hundred unique practices that will help your family draw closer and make everyone in your home happier. It has already changed the lives of millions of families, and it can do the same for yours. To kick-start you and your family toward greater harmony this year, here are Bruce’s five ways to make family “dinner” a time for communication, rather than chaos.
FIVE WAYS TO RETHINK FAMILY DINNER
No time for family dinner, no problem! You can get all the benefits without sitting down together to eat every night. Here’s how.
1. Time shift.
Can’t have dinner together every night? Aim for once a week. Aren’t home from work early enough? Gather everyone at 8 pm for dessert or a bedtime snack. Weeknights too busy? Try breakfast or weekends.
2. Have family history night.
Research shows that children who can answer simple questions about their family history—where their grandparents grew up, how their parents met, illnesses their relatives suffered from—have higher self-esteem and are more resilient.
3. Let your kids speak half the time.
Only ten minutes out of every meal is spent on quality time, and parents speak two-thirds of that time. The more your kids speak, the more benefit they’re getting from the time together.
4. Teach your kids one new word a day.
The more words children learn when they’re young, the better they do in school when they’re older. Don’t dumb down your language; the more you speak like yourself, the more new words they pick up.
5. Have autobiography night
A valuable skill for children to learn is how to tell a story about their own lives. Ask your child to recall a memorable experience or great achievement. This technique is especially valuable the night before a big test or game, as scientists have found recalling high points from their lives boosts children’s self-confidence.
Bruce Feiler writes a column in contemporary families for the New York Times and is the author of six consecutive New York Times bestsellers, including The Council of Dads. He is the host of several series on PBS, a popular lecturer, and a frequent commentator on radio and television. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and twin daughters. www.brucefeiler.com. Follow Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.