Family Constitutions: Interview with Scott Gale

Making time for family fun

Many parents find themselves wearing multiple hats. Working multiple jobs, serving on numerous committees, and caring for elderly family members while raising children is no small feat. Scott Gale is one of these modern American parents whose obligations pulled him in too many directions. His solution was to create clarity and consistency at home so that family time could be spent enjoying each others' company instead of fighting about bedtimes and chores. Mr. Gale wrote his book, Your Family Constitution: A Modern Approach to Family Values and Household Structure, in order to share the system he developed in the hopes of transforming the family lives of parents who, like him, have a lot on their plates.

Author Scott Gale

Scott Gale Author Scott Gale

Scott Gale is the author of Your Family Constitution: A Modern Approach to Family Values and Household Structure, a book published in 2010 that gets rave reviews for its ability to help parents consistently and effectively run a modern household. LoveToKnow recently had the opportunity to interview Mr. Gale on this important topic facing a majority of modern American families.

Communication, Clarity, and Consistency in a Family

LoveToKnow (LTK): What was your motivation for writing your book? How have the principles about family structure and family values improved your family's daily life?

SG: I created the tool out of sheer necessity. It helped us gain clarity and consistency where we struggled before. It allowed us to spend less time putting out fires and more time focusing on important stuff. It has improved my daily life by reducing the arguments with and between my kids. There is less to fight about, so we function a lot better and our relationships have grown stronger.

(LTK): What is a Family Constitution? How does it work?

Scott Gale (SG): The Family Constitution is a tool to help families communicate and add clarity and consistency to their homes. It is a living document that begins with introspective thought and discussion. After you and your family have a strong understanding of where you want to go, as well as the dynamics in the house that help or obstruct the path, you create a set of boundaries, then layer in rewards and consequences to encourage everyone to stick to the framework that you've created. Mom and dad still hold all the final votes, but family members have a chance to voice their ideas and opinions.

Benefits of a Family Constitution

LTK: Modern family life can be overwhelming. In what way can creating a Family Constitution help a family get organized and focus on the important things in life?

SG: It all starts with understanding of yourself and the members of your family. You have to take steps to examine how your family works, identify the things you want to work on, and create a framework for improving those elements.

Trial and error is important too. If a rule, reward, or consequence doesn't get the desired result, it's okay to change it after appropriate thought and discussion. This enables you to adjust effectively without compromising the integrity of your Family Constitution and without creating arguments about which rule will be followed. The key to consistency is not so much to keep the same rules, but to know which rules are in place and expect them to be followed. Like any other constitution, your family's can be amended; as the family grows and matures, the constitution should evolve in order to meet the changing needs of the family.

LTK: Who benefits from Family Constitutions?

SG: Any family that needs help with communicating or setting boundaries.

LTK: What are the benefits of a constitution for parents? What are the benefits for kids?

SG: The mutual benefit is that arguing goes down over the little "irritants" that cause so many arguments (i.e. bedtime, television and video game usage, etc.). Family members stop having repetitive arguments stemming from lack of clarity, and emotional boundaries come down. At that point, you can reconnect and focus energy on the important stuff. Kids like it because they can earn rewards. Also, whether or not they say it, they too like having boundaries, as it takes some of the pressure off to always push.

Organizing and Enforcing Family Agreements

LTK: Who writes the Family Constitution and who enforces it?

SG: In reality, mom and dad have the most influence in the drafting; however, it should be based on discussion with everyone. The Family Constitution enforces itself because the rules are clear. We review chores and other performance stuff at family meetings, but the day-to-day rules are pretty straightforward once they are in place. The trick is to stay firm. Don't compromise the rules for convenience. For example, extending television viewing time because you have a deadline to meet at work, as the kids will interpret this as an indication that all rules are flexible.

LTK: Your book is an important resource; what additional tools do you provide on your website to help families get organized and focused on their ideal values?

SG: On the website there are fun Family Constitution templates, chore charts, and other tools to help families organize and focus. Additionally, there are links to several websites that parents can use as resources.

Enjoying Modern Family Life

While a modern lifestyle provides many enjoyable things, such as the option for both parents to work, and for all family members to engage in leisure activities and join organizations, these activities often make home life chaotic and rushed. For families who want to keep all of their fun hobbies, but gain a well-ordered and manageable home life honoring American family values, Scott Gale's Family Constitution provides help.

Pick up a copy of Mr. Gale's book at a local retailer to get started setting up your family's constitution in no time.

Family Constitutions: Interview with Scott Gale