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The Secrets Of Happy Families

Rebroadcast: originally broadcast March 25, 2013.

What happy families do right, from telling the family story to creating healthy relationships  across generations.

Bruce Feiler and his family. (Photo by Kelly Hike)

Bruce Feiler and his family. (Photo by Kelly Hike)

We love to love and talk up family. Nothing better. Nothing dearer. But in the thick of it, in the heart of it, when the kids are young and the parents are working, and the sink is full of dishes, and somebody’s crying, and the car payment’s due, and you’re late for school, it can be pretty wild. Straight up hard.

Bruce Feiler was right there, in that spot – in the messy, madcap, impossible heart of it – and he thought ‘there has to be a better way’. He went asking, comparing, looking for advice. New ways.

This hour, On Point: the secrets of happy families.

-Tom Ashbrook

Guests

Bruce Feiler, author of “The Secret of Happy Families: Improve your mornings, rethink family dinner, fight smarter, go out and play, and much more.” (@brucefeiler)

Ann Smith, marriage and family therapist, executive director of the Breakthrough Program at Caron Treatment Centers. She also blogs regularly for Psychology Today.

From Tom’s Reading List

The Washington Post “Books about families fall into two categories: those proclaiming that we’re all doing it wrong (delivered with aFrench accent or the roar of a tiger mom)and those detailing just how ­badly the author’s parents messed up.”

The Huffington Post (Bruce Feiler) “Over the next week, tens of millions of people will do something so familiar it’s easy to forget how radical it is: They will commemorate the worst moments of their past. For Jews, the occasion is Passover, in which they relive their four centuries of slavery in Egypt. For Christians, the occasion is Easter, in which they painstakingly mark the trial and crucifixion of Jesus.”

The New York Times “Family stories are exactly what they sound like. They’re stories of our family history — how we got here, who came before us and what mattered along the way. They’re stories of our recent family past, little legends that define us and highlight what’s important. And they’re stories about our family present: this is why we do what we do, this is what’s important to us.”

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  • Shag_Wevera

    Married 7 years,,, 3 young children.
    With my wife it is the resolution that all problems will be overcome and we will remain together. With my children it is remaining close and remaining involved.
    So far, my kids are well and my marriage stronger now than when it began.

  • JobExperience

    Since Tolstoy the Bourgeois reality had always been that,”All happy families are alike, each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” But with the generalized and engineered financial and temporal squeeze today we are coming to understand that the most common vast categories of unhappiness have a single cause: the triumph of corporate capitalist mercantile globalism. Most Americans are too poor now to afford lifestyle choices, and/or children. All states have to be nannies to survive, and now states are corporate slaves who neglect and exploit their children.
    The nuclear family is reduced to a unit of extraction.Today’s discussion applies only to a rapidly shrinking affluent minority.

  • Irv

    I work with troubled youth and, consistently, they come from the growing number of families who do not spend significant time with their children. Parents tell me they have :”no time,” and I respond that if they ever cook a meal their child can help, and they can always find the time to go for a walk or shop together. I don’t buy the “no time explanation. Children must be their priority!

    • JobExperience

      Be careful not to recommend sleeping together. (for many reasons)

      One: Short parent nights mean the children will be roused at dawn. I see the apartment bathroom lights where harried women wash their hair at 5 am. It’s the only me-time they get.

  • Nini Diana

    I hope you cover how some divorced or separated families still manage to maintain happiness. It’s important to remember that sometimes happiness comes after the parents are apart.

  • Theodore Hoppe

    What has happened to the extended family?

  • Sophie T Lvoff

    Please talk about families with adult children and strategies for new grandparents to be involved. I am 27, my brothers are 33 and 31, and have their own children. My parents are finding it difficult to connect with the grandchildren and their adult children because of boundaries set as ‘new’ adults.

  • MarkVII88

    I am a young father of 3 little girls, ages 7, 5, and 3. I love spending time with my kids, whether or not my wife can come along. Without doubt, whenever I’m out with the kids by myself someone will comment on how good of a Dad I am or how much I must have my hands full. I’ve even had complete strangers say they’re sorry that I haven’t had any sons. I constantly marvel at the double standard in our society that holds Dads like me up as some kind of superhero when, if my wife were to take the kids out by herself, that’s just another thing Mom is supposed to do.

  • johnsloth

    Beware of books claiming to reveal secrets.

  • travelheaven

    Tom, Tom, Tom, let the man speak! Your guest is correct, your skepticism is palpable, but it is no help to your listeners who are trying to form their own opinions if you don’t let him finish his points… I’ve never heard you saying “no, no, no” to any other guest!

  • Eric B.

    Ann’s message: “People First” is primary (so to speak). All the times I would come home and trip over the hockey sticks and step in dogdoo and see the disarray first – before I greeted the kids & Mom – I now realize how poorly I dealt with that and I wish I’d had the benefit of this little bit of wisdom in those times. How to get that back now that the kids are grown…

  • fun bobby

    that was way too much.

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