February 21, 2013

New Best Practices for Families

Creating a family culture that is resilient, happy and supportive for the long run isn’t so easy, says author Bruce Feiler, but it’s doable with some heavily researched approaches that turn some long-believed theories on their heads.

In The Secrets of Happy Families – published just this week – the columnist and best-selling author offers tactics to foster family harmony and growth.

But this isn’t just a rehash of traditional approaches to family cohesion.

Instead, it’s the result of interviews with the least likely sources – high-level peace negotiators, online game designers, Green Berets, and elite wealth advisors, to name a few – who describe what’s working for them, often transporting best practices from their professions to their own kitchen tables.

So from officials at the Harvard Negotiation Project, for example, Feiler shares a step-by-step guide to reducing conflicts with spouses and children, altering where, when and how to resolve family disputes.

And as far as dinner hour is concerned, Feiler learns from military types that merely finding time to be together every day may just be more realistic and effective.

The author of Walking the Bible and The Council of Dads, and the This Life column in the New York Times, the Brooklyn resident is a known voice in the Jewish community.

So is there any particular Jewish thread in his new book that Jewish families and educators can glean?

“The three secrets to a happy family that I’ve identified echo some themes of Jewish teaching,” he said. “Adapt all the time. Talk. A lot. Go out and play.”

But the book has universal appeal.

“New research has provided additional ideas that go beyond traditional Jewish culture,” he added. “Take two of my favorite pieces of advice, first, the ‘Law of Two Women.’ Research shows that if you have two women in extended family conversations, you’ll reach consensus sooner.

“Second, when you discipline your children, sit in an upright chair with a cushioned seat, as everyone will be more accommodating. I don’t know that you’ll find this in the Talmud.”

The Secrets of Happy Families, published by William Morrow, is available at www.amazon.com