Hola amigos: Today I bring you “The Secrets of Happy Families” by Dr. Bruce Feiler. Happy families are alike, so Dr. Feiler help us see what do they have in common. Take his quiz to find out, and discover how you can have a happy family too. The first question of the Dr. Feiler quiz found that the kids who knew the most about their family’s history, were best able to handle stress. ‘The more children know about their family, the stronger their sense of control over their lives and the higher their self-esteem. The reason: these children have a strong sense of “inter-generational self”—they understand that they belong to something bigger than themselves, and that families naturally experience both highs and lows.” – I rest my case, thanks. – ES
It’s actually a great time to know what happy families do right? In this Sunday’s issue of PARADE, best-selling author (and dad) Bruce Feiler reveals the smartest ways to teach kids values, calm chaos at home, and draw families closer together.
“Recently we’ve seen a stunning breakthrough in knowledge about how to make families run more smoothly,” Feiler writes.
I spent the past few years meeting with scholars, peace negotiators, online-game designers, the Green Berets, even Warren Buffett’s bankers to try to glean the secrets to happy families. The questions here are meant to help you do the same.
Here are a few of his tips for helping make the family unit effective and resilient:
• Teach kids about their family’s history—it helps them handle stress.
• Let your children decide how best to spend their allowance.
• Don’t push athletics on your children.
• To reduce squabbles, spend a few minutes every day alone with each child.
• Allow kids to have a say in deciding their own punishments
Quiz: How Happy Is Your Family?
By Bruce Feiler
As the saying goes, all happy families are alike. But what do they have in common? Take our quiz to find out—and discover how you can have one, too.
There comes a moment in the life of nearly every parent when you look at the chaos around you and think: There must be a better way! For me, that happened a few years ago. Having survived the slog of sippy cups and diaper caddies with our then 5-year-old twin daughters, my wife and I were ready to develop a family culture. But what are the ingredients that make families effective, resilient, and happy?
It’s actually a great time to ask that question: Recently we’ve seen a stunning breakthrough in knowledge about how to make families run more smoothly. I spent the past few years meeting with scholars, peace negotiators, online-game designers, the Green Berets, even Warren Buffett’s bankers to try to glean the secrets to happy families. The questions here are meant to help you do the same.
Test Questions The Secrets of Happy Families
Answer 1. When a team of psychologists measured children’s resilience, they found that the kids who ________ were best able to handle stress.
Ate the same breakfast every day
Knew the most about their family’s history ✓
Played team sports
Attended regular religious services
The more children know about their family’s history, the stronger their sense of control over their lives and the higher their self-esteem. The reason: These children have a strong sense of “intergenerational self”—they understand that they belong to something bigger than themselves, and that families naturally experience both highs and lows.
Answer 2. Children are expected to learn how many new words per year during grades 3 through 12?
It may sound daunting, but you can help by teaching kids one new word every day. Three simple games are effective at building vocabulary. First, throw out a word like bird or white and have everyone list as many related words as possible. Second, introduce a prefix or suffix and see how many words can be created from it. Third, open a newspaper or magazine and ask the kids to find a word they don’t know, then look up the definitions and discuss.
Answer 3. True or false: When giving children an allowance, parents should force them to divide their money into equal piles for spending, saving, and giving away.
An allowance gives kids a chance to practice something they won’t learn in school: money management. Dividing allowance money into different pots is a popular tactic, but you shouldn’t force it on a child. Instead, let him or her decide how to spend the cash. As one of Warren Buffett’s bankers said, it’s better to make a mistake “with a $6 allowance than a $60,000 salary or a $6 million inheritance.”
Answer 4. What do surveys show that children want most from their parents?
To spend more time with them
For the parents to be less tired and stressed ✓
A bigger allowance
An effective way to cut down on stress is to hold a weekly meeting to review how your family is functioning. Sit together with everyone and pose three questions: “What worked well in our family last week?” “What didn’t work well?” And “What can we work on now?” The following week, adjust and try again.
Answer 5. Eating dinner together as a family has been shown to benefit children, but at least a third of Americans rarely do so. Which of these alternatives can offer the same benefits?
Eating breakfast together
Having a bedtime snack as a family
Scheduling a once-a-week Sunday supper
All of the above ✓
Children who eat dinner with their families do better in school and are less likely to drink, smoke, do drugs, or develop eating disorders, yet one study found Americans rank 23rd out of 25 countries when it comes to family meals. Still, research shows that you can reap most of the same benefits by gathering at other times, like at breakfast—even if it’s just once a week.
Answer 6. To encourage conversation and draw your family closer, arrange your living room seating in a:
A study of hospital patients in Saskatchewan, Canada, found that subjects were friendlier to one another when they were seated face-to-face. The ideal distance is about five feet away, the same vantage from which Rembrandt and Leonardo da Vinci painted portraits. At that distance, the eye can comfortably take in the torso, hands, and face.
Answer 7. The most common time of day for family fights is:
Psychologists in Chicago studied interactions between moms, dads, and kids and found that the most highly charged time was from 6 to 8 p.m., when parents are returning from work and everybody is hungry. To reduce fighting, hold off on difficult topics until everyone’s looked through the mail, eaten, and changed clothes.
Answer 8. When it comes to discipline, who should pick the punishments?
When kids have a role in picking their own punishments, it can give them a “greater sense of ownership” over their behavior and may increase the likelihood they’ll follow through on changing it, said Carol Dweck, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at Stanford University.
Answer 9. The worst word you can say in a fight with a spouse is:
Pronouns are the canaries in the coal mine of conflict. James Pennebaker, Ph.D., chair of the psychology department at the University of Texas at Austin, citing studies of married couples, says that using a lot of first-person pronouns (“I” or “we”) is a sign of a healthy relationship; using “you” (as in “You always say that” or “You never do this”) indicates poor problem solving.
Lie down and stretch out
Sit up with good posture
Lean forward and nod
Any of the above, as long as you’re both doing the same thing ✓
People who assume power positions (feet up; leaning over a table) tend to have increased feelings of superiority, while those in less powerful poses (sitting lower; arms crossed) tend to feel defensive and resentful. To reduce feelings of power imbalances, says environmental psychologist Sally Augustin, Ph.D., everyone in a conversation should be at the same level, with the same posture.
Answer 11. When men and women were asked the top three reasons they argue with their spouse, they agreed on only one. What was it?
The cliché is accurate. Scientists posed this question to about 4,000 men and women, and money was the only answer cited by both sides. Couples can cut down on financial conflicts by dividing money into three accounts—”yours,” “mine,” and “ours”—and holding quarterly meetings to discuss finances.
Answer 12. When siblings between the ages of 3 and 7 are together, how many times per hour do they fight?
One to two
Two to three
Three to four ✓
Siblings clash an average of 3.5 times per hour, studies show, with those fights lasting a total of 10 minutes. To reduce squabbles, spend a few minutes every day alone with each child (so they’re not jockeying for attention), and give them chores to do jointly to build trust.
Answer 13. Difficult conversations among groups of family members will go better if you have two what?
Bottles of wine
Researchers from Carnegie Mellon, MIT, and elsewhere analyzed nearly 700 people working in groups and found that those with a higher proportion of females to males were more sensitive to input from everyone, more capable of reaching compromise, and more efficient.
Answer 14. At family meetings, you should vote about a matter:
Before you discuss it ✓
After you discuss it
Many organizations are better at making decisions if participants express their views at the outset of a meeting. Otherwise, countless studies have shown that the people who speak first and loudest tend to persuade others to go along with their positions, even when they’re wrong.
Answer 15. Research shows that girls delay the onset of sexual activity if they have a close relationship with their:
In a landmark Add Health study of 90,000 adolescents, researchers found that girls who have close relationships with their fathers were more likely to hold off on having sex. Other studies have shown that involved dads also produce greater sociability and confidence in both daughters and sons.
Answer 16. Which of these out-of-school activities is more popular for American children ages 7 to 10?
Team sports ✓
Nearly three-quarters of American children play team sports, but parents often put too much pressure on their kids. To make sports more family-friendly: Don’t push athletics on your child. Don’t use commands during games (say “good pass,” not “pass the ball”). And don’t engage in postgame analysis (let the coaches coach; parents should be supportive).
Answer 17. Which behavior is more vital to a happy relationship?
Supporting your partner during a difficult period
Celebrating your partner after an accomplishment ✓
Researchers at the University of California at Santa Barbara asked men and women to share good news with their partners. Those with the strongest relationships didn’t just toast their partner’s achievement (“Good job, honey”) but attributed it to their unique self (“Only someone with your ingenuity could have won that big account”). The scientists concluded that it’s more important to congratulate your partner when things go right than to console when things go wrong.
Answer 18. How many Americans attend a family reunion every year?
100 million ✓
About 40 percent of Americans attend an annual reunion, with another 25 percent attending one every few years. To increase bonding during reunions, hold a family trivia contest or play intergenerational games like capture the flag. Having fun together is a key part of building a strong family identity.
Answer 19. Most people say their family is:
Three-quarters of American adults say their family is the most important element of their lives, and 85 percent say that the family they have today is as close as or closer than the family they grew up with.
The Secrets of Happy Families Quiz Completed
Then, what do happy families do right? Happy families adapt. They talk—a lot. They go out and play. And they make the decision to keep working on their family. In the end, this may be the most enduring lesson of all. What’s the biggest secret to a happy family? Trying.
Adapted from The Secrets of Happy Families: Improve Your Mornings, Rethink Family Dinner, Fight Smarter, Go Out and Play, and Much More, by Bruce Feiler (Feb. 19, William Morrow
Read an exclusive excerpt from Bruce Feiler’s new book - How Creating a Mission Statement Can Make Your Family Stronger – :
By early Saturday afternoon, David Kidder, the bachelor dad of three young boys for the weekend, was showing signs of losing his wits. His wife, Johanna, was traveling on business. Jack, their 6-year-old, was jumping on the sofa. Stephen, their 4-year-old, was tugging at the refrigerator door. And Lucas, not quite 2, had disappeared. Kidder went sprinting through their home in Mamaroneck, New York. Within seconds, he issued a plaintive cry from the bathroom. “Oh, Lukie, what are you doing?”
Lucas had stripped himself down to his diaper, unfurled half a roll of toilet paper, and was stuffing the garland—and his clothes—into the toilet.
“Come on, we’ve got to get you cleaned up,” Kidder said. He dispatched the two older boys to the backyard, scooped up Lucas, and scurried up two flights of stairs.
As I followed this train of testosterone through the house, I noticed the same decorative item hanging prominently in several rooms. It was a framed piece of paper, cobalt blue, with the word KIDDER in bright vermilion letters in the center. Immediately under it was the phrase, DO UNTO OTHERS. And all around the page were an array of short phrases with bolded words: FAITH, PURPOSE, KNOWLEDGE, JUSTICE.
“That’s our belief board,” Kidder said. “Everything we believe as a family is on that sheet of paper.”
Once Lucas was distracted, Kidder sat down and explained. A serial entrepreneur, Kidder had started four different companies. “If I’ve learned anything in 20 years,” he said, “it’s that young companies typically fail because they don’t communicate their values. You have a charismatic leader with a bunch of beliefs, but those beliefs don’t translate to the rest of the company.”
To solve that problem, Kidder created a playbook for his latest company, with everything from the values of the company to how to run meetings. That’s when he began to wonder: Is there a similar operating system for being a parent?
Every parent I know worries about teaching values to their children. How do we make sure they understand that some beliefs are timeless? How do we build a healthy family culture and ensure that those qualities are passed on to our kids?
In 1989, Stephen Covey came up with an innovative answer. A management consultant from Utah with a Harvard MBA, Covey often asked his corporate clients to write a one-sentence answer to the question, “What is the essential mission or purpose of this organization, and what is its main strategy in accomplishing that purpose?” He then asked executives to read their answers out loud. Participants were usually shocked at how much their answers differed from one another. Covey then helped them create a more unified mission statement.
Covey was not alone, of course. Companies had been identifying their core values and writing mission statements for decades. Covey’s innovation was to apply a similar process to families. He suggested that families create a family mission statement.
“The goal,” he wrote, “is to create a clear, compelling vision of what you and your family are all about.” He said the family mission statement was like the flight plan of an airplane. “Good families—even great families—are off track 90 percent of the time,” he wrote. What makes them good is they have a clear destination in mind, and they have a flight plan to get there. As a result, when they face the inevitable turbulence and human error, they keep coming back to their plan.
Covey said creating his own family’s statement was the most transforming event in his family’s history. He and his wife first looked over their marital covenant, in which they had included 10 abilities they wanted their children to have. They then asked their kids a series of questions, including “What makes you want to come home?” and “What embarrasses you about our family?” Next the kids wrote their own statements. Their teenage son Sean, a high school football star, wrote, “We’re one heck of a family, and we kick butt!” Finally they ended up with their single sentence:
“The mission of our family is to create a nurturing place of faith, order, truth, love, happiness, and relaxation, and to provide opportunity for each individual to become responsibly independent, and effectively interdependent, in order to serve worthy purposes in society.”
Covey lists a dozen examples of other families’ mission statements. They range from the homiletic: Our family mission: To love each other . . . To help each other . . . To believe in each other . . . To wisely use our time, talents, and resources to bless others . . . To worship together . . . Forever. To the sly: No empty chairs.
I had a range of reactions to this exercise. On the one hand, I found the whole thing a little corny. It seemed cumbersome, heavy-handed, and a tad humorless. Also, the pressure of fitting everything into a single sentence seemed liked a good way to end up with a long-winded sentence. On the other hand, I kinda loved the idea. I’m corny! I also thought Covey’s idea captured something inherently true: How can we ask our children to uphold our family’s values if we never articulate what those values are?
Around this time my wife Linda came home one day complaining about some branding problem she was having at work. She co-founded and runs an organization called Endeavor that supports high-impact entrepreneurs around the world. For years, she has worked with branding gurus on Madison Avenue who help the organization identify its central mission and core values. It was a powerful, even emotional, process for everyone on her team.
That’s when it hit me: What if we tried something similar with our family? What if we tried to create our own brand, so to speak? It could include a family mission statement like the one Covey proposed. It could include a list of shared values, maybe even a swoosh or some other cool logo.
Linda pointed out that brands have an external purpose families don’t exactly have. We weren’t selling running shoes, after all. But as I had seen with Linda’s organization, brands also have an internal purpose. They force everyone to sit down, talk about what they believe in, and articulate a common vision. Could that process help us define for our girls, and ourselves, the values we actually believed in? There was only one way to find out.
Buy the Book Here:
Best Price $12.29
or Buy New $14.29