By Lowry Manders
I recently heard author Bruce Feiler interviewed on NPR about his book The Secrets of Happy Families and as I listened I thought to myself, “I have got to get a book published!” He is echoing so much of the things I preach (and try to live) about how to create happy families in my “Parent with Purpose” seminars.
But for now, here are some of the highlights from this man’s business-type approach to family life.
2. Have Family Meetings- We had our first family meeting about a year ago when the kids were 4 and 2. One evening when Daddy was at home, he called a ”family meeting” to discuss our plans for the next day – a day with him! It has since become a fun family ritual. We usually gather over some treat – it started with lollipops to help the children to listen a little longer, once we passed around chocolate chips, and now MJ runs to get us treats whenever a meeting is announced. The meetings have been held in MJ’s bed, on the couch, on the kitchen floor, and at the table. We start off by singing our family song together, then let people share any important announcements, joys or concerns they might have. We also take the time to share things they appreciate that other family members have done for them that week, and then we move to the agenda….we all have paper and crayons to take notes if we like. Could be something like, “What fun thing are we going to do today?” or “Let’s make a plan for our fall family Fair Day” or “We have this problem or issue…any ideas on how we can solve this together?” The hope is that “family meetings” become a special part of our connection time together, a forum for everyone to feel included and valued in the family, and for everyone to feel heard and cared for, where everyone’s opinion matters. Again, it’s something that’s easier to start now and keep going than begin when they are teenagers. This ritual is an example of the sort of “positive discipline” that we parents are also responsible for, that makes the negative stuff easier. Brainstorm ways that it would work best for your family…
3. Play Together as a Family! That’s why “PLAY” is the first priority in my parenting mantra. I believe play and music are the most natural languages that young children speak, and the family connections happen when we speak it with them! We call it “family play” in our home…we name it and claim it on the evenings that we are all home together. Sometimes it’s a game of “Hide and Seek,” sometimes rough and tumble play on the red rug in our playroom, sometimes Candy Land, sometimes a family pillow fight! Sometimes the play happens after rest-time when Ellie invites me to play school with her and her babies, or when MJ asks me to help him with an invention. What are some of your favorite ways to play with your children? Ask them to name their favorite “family play” activities, too!
4. Stop and Reflect. Part of my own mission for my “Parent with Purpose” seminars and this blog is to guide parents in this important reflection on this most important job we have. I love to give people meaningful questions to consider…Just as you have “performance reviews” at your other job, just as kids get “report cards” every six weeks and have “parent-teacher” conferences, shouldn’t we be pausing to consider our own performance as parents every now and then? Our vision, goals, and concerns? Do you have a ritual for reflecting on your own parenting each day? Each week? Each month? Each year?
How do you create a happy family in your own home?
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