Buffett’s Banker and the Green Berets Could Make You a Better Parent

The last family argument left oatmeal on the ceiling.

Your tween wants a tattoo.

Your son bought $600-worth of virtual pirate coins on an online app.

You've tried bribing, cajoling, begging, crying, screaming, pleading—and that's just with the in-laws.

Don't give up. Call in the cavalry. That's exactly what best-selling author and New York Times columnist Bruce Feiler did.

"I was incredibly frustrated as a parent," Feiler told "Off the Cuff". "Our lives were very chaotic. We were out of control. And I felt like we were always playing defense and we were never playing offense with our children. I was very frustrated that parents are in this straitjacket, that the only ideas we can implement must come from the family improvement industry, shrinks and self-help gurus," he continued. "Yet, in all these other areas of contemporary life, from Silicon Valley to corporate America, championship sports teams, even the military, there are all these ideas of how to make groups and teams run effectively. I wanted to find out what those people were doing in their homes and then test their ideas out with my own wife and kids."

The result is his new book, "The Secrets of Happy Families." To learn the best way to defuse family feuds, Feiler consulted The Harvard Negotiation Project. The Army's Green Berets weighed in on bonding with family members. Celebrity chef John Besh challenged the sanctity of the family dinner.

For tips on setting an allowance, he went to Warren Buffett's banker, Byron Trott. His advice was surprising: talk to your children about your finances, even your debts. Let them make their own decisions about how they allocate their money, and put them to work.

Feiler test-drove the ideas at home with his wife and kids. They drew up a family mission statement, let the kids set their own rewards and punishments, and scheduled a weekly board meeting with their daughters.

Feiler calls himself an "experientalist" – in all of his books, he lives the adventure, then tells the tale. In "Learning to Bow", he taught English in Japan, in "Walking the Bible", he traveled across three continents to search for the locations, and the stories, of the Old Testament.

"There is a difference between me on the page and me in real life. The person who feels this most acutely is my wife, who constantly says she'd much rather be married to my persona than be married to me. Because on the page, I'm charming and self-deprecating and interesting," he said. "And in real life, I can be a real pain."