The pandemic has hit my reading rate hard. It's been a really busy few months as I've had way more responsibilities to deal with at home, which has meant less free time daily for reading unfortunately. It was also timely that I had started reading around this time The Secrets of Happy Families by Bruce Feiler, which I just finished.
I had actually received this book for free as part of an Authors@Google talk I attended when I worked there (which you can watch below if you're interested). I don't know why it took me so long to read the actual book after the event.
I did take a lot of good notes and learned a lot from the talk I listened to, but that was before I had my own child. Reading it now as a father gave me a lot more actionable information. I found the book insightful and action-oriented, and I'd love to dig into its many examples and primary sources sometime in the future.
I came away with a lot of good ideas to experiment with and implement in my own family in the future. My full notes on the book are below the video.
Ideas to improve modern families
Part 1 adapt all the time
1 the agile family manifesto
Agile sprint review and retrospective meetings weekly
Parenting: Everything is a phase, including the good parts
Agile Practices for Families white paper by David Starr
Kansan chart in kitchen of tasks
Self-directed morning checklist for getting ready in morning
Can decorate a fancy morning list sign
Post-dinner Sunday family meeting
Weekly review session to inspect and adapt
Like daily standup
What have you done this week
What are you going to do next week
Any impediments in your way we can help with
Family meeting questions
What went really well in our family this week?
What things could we improve on in our family?
What things will you commit to working on this week?
List all the items on the “to improve” list and family votes which 2 to focus on (can keep voting and removing lowest winner sequentially to narrow down list to top 2)
Children propose remedies and own rewards and punishments
Drumroll starts meeting where each person starts drumming on table as he sits down
Agile family manifesto
Empower the children
Kids should plan own time, set weekly goals, evaluate their own work
Kids should be the ones checking off the tasks
Parents aren’t invincible
Kids can air grievances against adults
Create a safe zone
Can delay discussions of things that come up to Sunday meeting when not a good opportunity during the week
Build in flexibility
Always keep working to improve your family
Can start young (author’s kids started at age 5)
2 the right way to have family dinner
What you talk about is more important than what you eat or when you eat it
Family dinners huge predictor of childhood benefits
Plan ahead menus
Can move family dinner to family breakfast
Can gather daily for dessert or other meal
Kids who know more about their families do better when facing challenges
Where grandparents grew up
Where parents went to high school
Where parents met
Challenges overcome by family
What went on when kids were born
Stories of ups and downs
Know they belong to something bigger
Tell these stories around occasions and trips
Create silly rituals that kids will do with their kids because it means being part of the family
Monday: word of the day
Aim for 10 minutes of quality talk per meal
Let your kids speak at least half the time
Teach kids one new word per meal
Throw out a word like fruit/bird/white and have everyone come up with maximum number of related words
Introduce a prefix or suffix and have everyone create new words
Bring newspaper or magazine to table and ask everyone to find a word they don’t know
Tue: autobiography night
Around age 5, can start telling simple stories about own lives
Ask child to recall a memorable experience from that day or the past
Then ask why/what/etc
Can do this before a big test or game to boost confidence
Wed: pain points
Ask everyone to bring up a pain point or dilemma and together devise possible solutions
Thu: word game night
Thesaurus Thursday: say a common word and have everyone come up with alternatives
Alliterations: everyone makes a sentence in which all words begin with the same letter
Fill in the blank: everyone comes up with a sentence for others to complete like “the sport I want to learn most is …”
What’s the difference between? Someone tosses out a question and Everyone has to give a different answer
Fri: bad and good
Everyone says what happened bad that day then everyone says what happened good
Ok to make your kids play the games as part of tradition even if they complain
3 branding your family: family mission statement
Belief board with last name, color, motto, and core values and beliefs around it
7 habits of highly effective families
List from studies
Encouragement of individuals
Commitment to the family
7 habits book for families by covey
Begin with the end in mind
Put first things first
Think win win
Seek first to understand then to be understood
Sharpen the saw
Family annual traditions
Core value is something so important that you would hold on to it even if it harmed you or had you punish your kids for violating it
Tips for drafting mission statement and making it special
Part 2 talk a lot
4 fight smart
Don’t have tough conversations between 6-8pm
Don’t use pronoun you; use we or I
Anyone can call for a 5 min break anytime
When someone comes home, they get 15 minutes by themselves
Pick alternate weeks in which one person gets to be right all the time
5 the buck starts here. The warren Buffett guide to setting an allowance
Begin allowance age 6-7
One dollar per week per year of age
Model good conversations and attitude towards money
Don’t link chores to allowance
Tie losing bonuses to bad behavior for loss aversion. Here is five dollars. If you add 3 vegetables this month/rake leaves, you get to keep it. If you don’t, you have to give it back.
Kids can divide money into 4 pots
Spend. Whatever they want but must use own money for gifts for parent birthdays, Mother’s Day, etc.
Give away. Monthly visit to donorschoose.org
Share. Spending together like on vacation
Weekly meeting to review together each kid’s earnings and expenses
Parents pay for base electronic device and kids pay for add ons
Deductions for not making bed or doing chores
The more parents talk about debt and saving, the better kids do
Show kids your money and how it’s made, lost, invested, spent
Take off the training wheels and let them make decisions
Accept their passions, any passions.
Put them to work. Part time jobs. Running their own businesses.
Quarterly couples meetings to discuss financials
Don’t talk about money at family events or holidays
Have a third party or neutral voice at the table when discussing money
Divide some money for each person’s use. Divide into yours, mine, ours.
6 talk about the marshmallows. How to have difficult conversations.
Play less cop to bad sibling behavior and more midwife to good behavior
For less meal fights, have siblings spend 20 min before meal doing joint activity to reaffirm connection
Give siblings chores to do together
Spend 10 min alone with each child every night doing something suited to that child (reading, reviewing scores, telling stories)
For kids under 8, parent needs to help resolve conflict by giving tool kit for resolving difficult situations
Think about self first. Go to balcony.
Be curious about the other person
Create a third story together richer than either of yours
Groups sometimes outperform individuals
Vote first, talk later
Hold a premortem
The law of two women: always make sure there is more than one woman in a meeting
7 lessons from sex mom
4 rules in the talk she gives
Talk more openly about it at home
Use real words for both genders genetalia
Talk to kids earlier like ages 7-8 about menstruation and other topics coming up
Accompany first period with jubilation. Period party. Period Care package.
Tips from esther Perel
Combine familiar with unfamiliar
8 what’s love got to do with it
Honey what you’re saying makes a whole lot of sense
Put yourself first.
Date night. Do something novel. Drive to new part of town.
Double date. Answer intimate questions with another couple.
9 care and feeding of grandparents
Grandmother effect positive on kids and parents
I love it when the headlights come. But I love it even more when the taillights go.
Offload siblings to them
Grandparents as escape valve who never get angry
Grandparents should hover whereas parents shouldn’t
Dealing with nagging
When problems arise, the blood relative of the grandparent should handle
Have good fence
Give long list of to-dos for them when they come over
Do extra load of laundry when she visits
Install separate thermostat in guest room
Your house, your rules. Our house, our rules.
You’re allowed to say what you want as long as you’re not offended if we don’t take your advice
Grandparent our children; don’t parent them
10 the right stuff
Privacy. Create private spaces for kids and adults at home. 3 types of spaces: individual, shared, public
Color. Brighter in kids rooms. Single color in adult rooms. Warm shades in kitchen.
Sit in circle for meetings
Sit 18”-5.5’ apart
Sit next to not across from collaborator
Sit at same level and with same posture
Sit on cushioned chairs
Place questionnaire even for kids
Create lists of 30 min and 15 min tasks and distribute them based on kids’ wish lists
Part 3 go out and play
11 family vacation checklist. How to make travel more fun
Create different checklists for different times in the process
Make checklists specific
Focus checklists on killer items only and those that commonly go wrong.
Rule of seven: checklists can only be 7 items
Include kids in making the checklists
Make master list of commonly forgotten items (sunscreen, chargers, stuffed animals), forgotten tasks (turn off AC, close curtains, empty trash, pack snacks, print directions, cancel newspaper, charge iPad)
Assign kids as list monitors
His checklist on page 201. Different lists for week before, day before, hour before
Rules of good games
Rules and limitations
Play games together including asynchronous ones like words with friends and FarmVille
Start games with what kids already know to give them sense of master then modify with backwoods and sidebars
Modified twenty questions
I’m thinking of a time when we went to a place and all you can ask is yes or no questions.
Kids on same side.
Winner chooses next place
Let’s tell a story
One person says a few sentences about a world then pass on to next person
Can give points based on if additional info makes sense
Send kid on missions to find letters on billboard or count chairs at pool or find out someone’s name or hometown then return and make presentation like My name is X and there are 9 clouds overhead
Collect 2 United tags, 3 coffee stirrers from Starbucks, and find out time of next aa flight. Include rewards like if u get 3 business cards and intro self to 5 people then get frozen yogurt. Count baby or dinosaur steps to gate 16.
Tell me about her
Point to a person then make up elaborate story about them
The amazing race
Who can score the most points over the entire week
Rhythm: minor task, minor task, major task and repeat
Different stunts for different people
Mix easy and hard
Make reward worth it
12 shut up and cheer
Team sports: most important is for kid to enjoy and parents not to pressure
Coaches teach the game. Parents should teach how lessons apply to life and character
Before the game
Be driven, don’t drive. Wait for kids to push you for sports.
Define your goals. Allocate points across goals on page 224 and ask kid to do same.
No verbs. Just cheer, no directions.
Flush the toilet. Mistake ritual (Tap helmet twice or take off cap then put on and move on from mistake or make flushing gesture to move on and forget)
After the game
No pga. Don’t deconstruct mistakes.
You’re the type of person who…. ask child for 3 things they remember about the game then you share your 3. You didn’t get a hit but what I like about you is you’re the kind of person who doesn’t give up
13 give war a chance. Perfect family reunion.
Exercise of tram trying to carry super heavy log and all suffer if it drops
In tough moment, learn to turn towards each other
Break through conflict and work out a system together
Tell your history
Sensemaking. Building narrative to explain what the group is about
Gather oral family history
Family history trivia contest
Build up family tree of medical history and cause of death to detect patterns
Team names, colors, cheers, flags
Paper boat race
Pie eating contest without hand
Oreo stacking contest
Blindfolded teammates call out to each other in a field until everyone reunited
Lay our board 2x14 then everyone rearranged in alphabetical and age and height order without coming off
Decorate the winners
Group process: forming, storming, norming, performing
Create experiences where people work together across generations
Family theater play
Adapt all the time
Talk a lot
Go out and play
Try being happy
Agile Practices for Families white paper by David Starr
7 habits of highly effective families
7 habits of happy kids
I only say this because I love you