Bruce is a writer of “This Life” column (about today’s families) for the Sunday New York Times and is the author of six consecutive New York Times bestsellers, one of which I read last week. He lives in Brooklyn with wife, Linda Rottenberg, and their identical twin daughters.
He has written for numerous publications, including The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, and Gourmet, where he won three James Beard Awards.
His latest book, The Secrets of Happy Families, wasn’t a cute bullet pointed check list for families to post on the fridge. It’s more like a road map, with multiple ways of getting to the same place (which is one of the reasons I loved it so much). He set out on a three-year journey to find the smartest ideas, cutting-edge research, and novel solutions to make his family happier.
Instead of the usual psychologists and family “experts,” he sought out the most creative minds from Silicon Valley to the country’s top negotiators, from the set of Modern Family to the Green Berets and asked what team-building exercises and problem-solving techniques they use with their families. He then tested these ideas with his own wife and kids.
His previous book, The Council of Dads, he reached out to six men who helped shape him and asked each one for a piece of advice for his daughters: how to live, how to travel, how to question, how to dream. It’s the next one on my list of books to read in the coming week.
The book was profiled in PEOPLE Magazine, USA Today, Time, and the Washington Post, and was the subject of a one-hour documentary on CNN hosted by Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Bruce was named “Father of the Year” by the National Fatherhood Initiative.
So why am I writing about a writer? Beyond the obvious tie-in with Father’s Day this weekend? It’s because I really think Bruce is trying to change the world and like all Movers & Shakers – he’s doing it in his own way, through storytelling.
When he first started writing The Secrets of Happy Families, his original goal was to make “The List to End All Lists”, but that’s not what the book is.
It’s a roadmap, with many ways to get to your OWN idea of your happy family. There are more then 200 ideas to try, so some will be more attractive then others. He doesn’t tout himself as a guru, he gives suggestions and tucks in a story, gives more advice and tucks in another story. The point (in my opinion) is to create a family unique and authentic to who you and your partner are and (from what I’ve read) Bruce’s books are great references.
Obviously I would strongly suggests reading The Secrets to Happy Families and trying a few of the ideas he proposes, then possibly adding a few more. (There are SO many suggestions, I found it overwhelming the first read through).
We started by adding family meetings to our weekly routine, and (as suggested) made the meeting a space & place safe for the kids to air their grievances with us, giving us feedback to how we were doing as parents.
Amazingly what we’ve found is that it kind of lets us off the hook for being the PARENTS and instead can be the laid back, fun and easy going parents we are naturally.
So what does this have to do with Design? On the surface, not much. BUT (to my delight) he has a complete CHAPTER on “The Right Stuff: How Rearranging Your Furniture Can Improve Your Family” – he had me at furniture.
He mentions the obvious: color and light. But he also mentions some items that are “obvious” to me (as a designer) but not so much to everyone else; the three types of space in a home, kids needing their own space, breaking up large spaces, where and how you place seating and (my fav) engaging the kids in the conversation about your home.
For me, Bruce’s ability to see the relevance of your space and to write about it is note worthy in and of itself. But the respect he shows his daughters by bringing them into the conversation is a powerful example of how we can all create an authentic, cohesive family by starting a simple conversation.
Great job Bruce, now if I could convince you to write an entire book about creating happy home….
- 5 Tips for Happy Adventure Families (outsideonline.com)
- Why You Want to Develop a Strong Family Narrative (eogn.com)
- Has Science Discovered The Secrets of Happy Families? (psychologytoday.com)