Thanks to Phenix Publicity I had to the privilege to conduct an e-interview with Scott Gale, author of Your Family Constitution. Below you will read our Q & A:
Could you please tell our readers a bit about yourself (mini bio/family/history as an author).
I am the prototypical busy dad, trying to stay afloat in the midst of a very busy lifestyle. My roles include the father of two boys, ages eight and twelve; the husband of an Australian ex-patriot; the coach of an 11-12 year old baseball team; a partner in a real estate development firm; an instructor at University California Irvine; and now an author and speaker.
A few years ago, I lost sight of the importance of clear and consistent communication. My relationship with my oldest son began to erode until we hit a Motherâ€™s Day meltdown a few years ago. Iâ€™ve since created a unique parenting tool that helped create clear and consistent structure in my home and mend the relationship with my son. It made such a tremendous difference in my life that I decided to share it with other struggling parents through my book, Your Family Constitution: A Modern Approach to Family Values & Household Structure.
Your book, Your Family Constitution, sounds intriguing and I am looking forward to reading my review copy. What prompted you to write about developing a family constitution? And how has it helped you and your family?
I originally created the Family Constitution concept out of sheer necessity. My wife and I had been struggling to stay on top of things, as we were out of synch and had no clear vision for how to proceed. My kids were frustrated and confused because our rules were reactive and subject to change based on circumstance. On Motherâ€™s Day 2007, my nine-year-old son and I got in an argument that ultimately resulted in me taking a twelve-mile hike home from Laguna Beach to cool off. I knew at that point something had to change.
In the weeks that followed, I received a constitution outlining the rules of my fantasy football league, which I modified to spell out new boundaries and structure for my family. It worked well and we steadily improved over the next couple of years. When my friends kept emphasizing what a special tool I had created, I decided to share it with other parents through this book.
The Family Constitution helped my family by clarifying expectations and facilitating consistent rewards and consequences. It took a while to get used to, but this new structure ultimately eliminated many of the simple but recurrent issues (i.e. bed times, chores, diet, etc.) that had previously ignited battles. As the arguing subsided, emotional boundaries came down and frustration subsided. I was able to get out of a defensive stance and focus on my blessings.
What are the single most important things you are trying to impart to others?
If I had to boil it down, there are four primary messages that Iâ€™d like to impart to others:
â€¢ Sustained improvement requires self-understanding and concentrated effort. Set the foundation for effective structure with introspection and understanding, then build on that with the 3Câ€™s- clarity, consistency and commitment.
â€¢ It is ok to make mistakesâ€¦in fact it is a necessary part of getting better. Iâ€™ve realized that striving for steady improvement, as opposed to perfection, is very liberating.
â€¢ Donâ€™t give up. If certain rules donâ€™t work or circumstances change, itâ€™s ok to make adjustments. The key is to communicate and fix what is not working at appropriate times (i.e. family meetings), rather than making spontaneous decisions that compromise clarity and consistency.
â€¢ Family life is the greatest blessing on earth, but it goes very quickly. Make time early on to set a game plan, and then enjoy the experience to the fullest extent possible.
Most of the reviews that I read of your book were very positive, as an author/speaker do you feel that you are making a difference in the lives of families?
I hope so. Iâ€™ve gotten emails and reviews from many readers who have identified with my challenges and appreciated my solutions. Through workshops to various parenting groups, Iâ€™ve dove into the lives of many parents. Itâ€™s amazing how we all struggle with the same issues. Fortunately, these same parents have provided many ideas and stories that Iâ€™ve been able to use myself and share with subsequent groups; so, hopefully, theyâ€™ve derived the same benefit that I get when someone helps me solve an issue Iâ€™m struggling with.
There are large families, small families, blended families, families of different faiths etc. Do you think your book is applicable to all families across the board?
Family composition, faith, geography and a host of other factors all play huge roles in our habits, interest and beliefs, but not necessarily in our effectiveness as parents and families. The one universal element is that we are all guided by the human spirit and all want to raise great kids to carry the torch through the next generation.
The Family Constitution concept may not readily apply as much to families with grown kids, as these households may be more set in their ways; however, the underlying concepts of self-understanding, effective communication, and targeted development through clear and consistent boundaries can help any relationship.
It isn’t always easy to implement new things, what kinds of obstacles do you foresee being problematic for families in developing a family constitution?
The biggest challenge for any family attempting to make significant changes is committing to sticking with it, no matter what happens. There may be times when staying with prescribed consequences is inconvenient or painful; however, consistency is an essential ingredient to effective structure.
I recommend that if a rule, reward or consequence need tweaking, then absolutely change it…at the appropriate time. Donâ€™t make knee-jerk adjustments to suit convenience or circumstance. Instead, make a mental note (or write it down) that you want to consider adjusting your rule(s) and why. At the next family meeting or other appropriate time, consider an amendment to rectify the situation. Youâ€™ll reap the benefits of making changes when youâ€™re removed from the situation and you wonâ€™t have to compromise your structure to get desired results.
Can you give us a sneak preview of any practical suggestions or strategies you offer in your book to aid families in developing their own family constitution?
I layout the entire process of creating a Family Constitution in the book, with tips and examples to highlight the messages and ideas. For instance, I provide several strategies to establish chores and responsibilities for family member. A household may elect to assign chores:
â€¢ Individually to family members based on age and capability
â€¢ Chore â€œstationsâ€ where each person is responsible for a grouping of related chores;
â€¢ Chore â€œrotationsâ€ where each person is responsible for a set of chores for an established period of time before they rotate to the next set.
For obvious reasons, the last two apply more to families with older kids; however, communication and creativity can get kids doing work (without complaining), as long as the rest of the structure is there to support it.
Are there any plans to expand on the idea of a family constitution or a future sequel?
Right now, I have no plans to write a future sequel. Depending on how things go, I may consider doing a follow-up in a few years that takes the readers through the teenage years. For now, Iâ€™ll focus on raising awareness about the original Your Family Constitution.
If you have any closing remarks, please feel free to include them here.
Yes. The process of building structure around your values takes time and effort. There simply are no sustainable â€œquick fixesâ€ when it comes to family. Children are such a blessing, it is worth the effort to do it right. We all make mistakes along the way; however, great parents learn from their mistakes and take actions to steadily improve.
Mr. Gale, thank you for taking the time to answer my questions.
Please stay tuned for a review of Mr. Gale’s book, Your Family Constitution: A Modern Approach to Family Values and Household Structure. You may visit his website at www.YourFamilyConstitution.com