26 January 2014

The Secrets of Happy Families: Improve Your Mornings, Tell Your Family History, Fight Smarter, Go Out and Play, and Much More by Bruce Feiler [2013]

I approached this book - as I do most self-help books - in a slightly conflicted frame of mind. On the one hand, I am as keen as the next man on learning and self-improvement.  But on the other, I sometimes struggle with the cheery optimism of traditional self-help books.  They often seem to be targeted only at the sort of people who are able to effect radical change in their lives.  My view is that if one had the necessary self-discipline to follow the edicts, one would be unlikely to be in need of a self-help book in the first place.  

And so I read on more in hope than expectation, on the off-chance that a stray piece of advice may deliver a glancing yet lasting blow; in practice, the good intentions rarely live more than a few days beyond completion of the book.  The only exception to this rule is Allen Carr's truly amazing smoking book which I read as a heavy smoker 14 years ago and which somehow hypnotized me into stopping cold turkey, for which I am forever grateful.

I picked this book up because I have been thinking a lot recently about ways in which I can improve as a parent.  Two key themes I picked up from this book:

1  The importance of creating family rituals and traditions to reinforce cross-generational ties and a sense of tribal belonging.

2  The power of decentralization - making children take responsibility for organizing their lives (and letting them learn from failure). 

I'm glad I read this book because it made me think more about these ideas.  

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