I really enjoyed this book. The premise is that rather than speaking to parenting experts, Bruce Feiler talked to ‘creative minds’ in various disciplines to see what techniques they use (in business and with their families) and then tested them out with his wife and kids.
I’ll admit I skipped over some of them – there’s one about arranging the perfect family reunion, which is just never going to happen in our family – but others were genuinely useful. My copy of the book has a bunch of post-it notes stuck in and I’ve already recommended it to friends.
My favourite tips were to have a weekly family meeting to discuss the week ahead and also what went well (and not so well) in the past week. There’s also a schedule of suggestions for what to talk about during family meals (e.g. Monday – pick a word of the day; Tuesday – talk about family history) and ideas for making a family ‘brand’ or manifesto, which I really loved.
Apparently discussing family history is incredibly important to children – it improves their self-esteem and makes them more resilient, so that’s something we’re trying to focus on (the boys ask us to retell certain stories – how we met, how they were born – but we’re going to expand to include stories about other family members). Also, as part of this, Feiler suggests a ‘where were we’ game (I don’t think that’s what he calls it, but I can’t find it) where you give clues about a place you’ve been together as a family and the others have to guess. This went down a STORM and we now play it all the time. (The chapter about talking to your children about sex is really great too.)