Author Shares 'The Secrets Of Happy Families' - New York News

Author Shares 'The Secrets Of Happy Families'

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Dinner time is traditionally a time when families sit down together, share a meal and talk...or at least they try to.

We've all stressed over it, but New York Times best-selling author Bruce Feiler recommends you ditch the dinner in his new book "The Secrets of Happy Families."

Feiler says it doesn't fit in with most of our schedules

"It turns out there's only 10 minutes of meaningful conversation - the rest is taken up with, 'get your elbows off the table' and 'pass the ketchup,' Feiler said.

"You can take that 10 minutes and move it to any time of day and have the same benefit."

Like most parents, Colleen Sepulveda says she and her husband are open to building a better family life and to cut down on the chaos of raising five kids ages 7 to 15.

"I'm always a second guessing," Sepulveda said. "Am I doing the right thing, are we spending enough time together or can we be doing this a little differently?"

But dinner isn't being dumped in her home.

"That is just something I like to do at least four or five times a week, just cause it's our time to sit down, the kids talk about what they did in school, we talk about what happened in the week."

Feiler admits that's one of his more controversial suggestions, but says families need to rethink what works.

Another eye raising solution is letting the kids pick their punishment.

"As a parent, it's easier to order our kids around because we are usually right and have most of the control. But the truth is you want to have the kids practice making the decisions and being responsible for themselves."

Family therapist Dr. Sarita Lyons is all for being creative and flexible while finding new ways to strengthen your family, but she believes the idea of letting children pick their punishment is a way for parents to get out of doing the dirty work.

Another thing advocated in Feiler's book is holding a weekly family meeting. He recommends families sit down once a week for 20 minutes and talk about what worked well for the family that week, what didn't work and what the family can improve on in the coming week."

The Sepulvedas say they like that idea.

Feiler has some 200 tips, but says the bottom line is the old rules no longer apply and the new ones are still being written.

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