If you’re like me and can’t help but get excited when media turn attention to great deliberate parenting practices, then you may have seen or heard about a new book by Bruce Feiler recently. The book is called The Secrets of Happy Families: Improve Your Morning, Rethink Family Dinner, Fight Smart, Go Out and Play, and Much More, and I’d highly recommend reading at least an article about it or watching Feiler’s TED talk for a summary.
When a bestselling author recommends tenets of deliberate parenting like articulating family values, creating a family mission statement, problem-solving as a team, and evaluating the narrative of a family’s history, how can I not be overjoyed? This is what I love!
Feiler is interested in what makes a family happy, effective and resilient. Through extensive research one of the answers he found was that a family, analogous to a team, remains effective when it creates and refines a strong “narrative” of the family’s positive moments and its resiliency in bouncing back from the difficult ones. While effective communication and problem-solving within a family can help it remain tight, disclosure of details about the family’s past creates a unique bond which provides family members with a sense of connectedness and resilience. Feiler explains that children who know the facts of their family’s past acquire a heightened “intergenerational self,” which leads to higher self-esteem, a strong feeling of belonging, and greater ability to make sense out of their lives.
I can personally attest to the empowerment that comes from intentionally framing a family narrative for one’s children that highlights positive moments and describes with honesty how we triumphed over the difficult ones. I will also reiterate the liberation that comes from evaluating the story—or legacy, as I like to call it—YOU were given about your family and values growing up. In understanding the rituals, practices, values, and beliefs your family imparted to you, you can then deliberately decide which parts you want to emulate as you grow your own family, which parts you want to delete, and what new components you would like to add that will provide you with the most effective way to raise your children to become resilient, happy and thriving individuals.
If you’d like to discuss these ideas further, you know I’d be more than happy to! Is it weird that the thought of helping a family craft a mission statement sounds more fun to me than an afternoon at the spa? Possibly, but helping families become more effective is my heart and soul, so please reach out to me if you ever need some help furthering your mission to do the best job you can in raising your children.