Family Meetings: just the words send some parents into a state of anxiety while kids yawn and get immediately distracted. But with a few simple guidelines, family meetings can be fun, build cooperation, unity, and even leadership skills!
Family meetings can become a weekly event that your kids look forward to. Here are examples of some primary goals:
- Start with fun to set a positive tone. For older kids you can ask a question like “What’s gone well in our family this week?”
- Keep discussion time short (i.e. 15 minutes) unless everyone agrees to extend the time.
- Everyone gets to be heard. A timer or talking stick can be helpful. Kids learn listening and to stay on topic.
- Decisions are unanimous. This promotes unity as children figure out how to compromise. It also keeps kids from voting in “Candy for every meal!…”
- Attendance is optional, but all decisions apply to all family members, present or not.
- Take turns leading the meetings, each child receiving the minimum help needed to be successful. (kids can begin to practice leading meetings at about age 7.)
- At first, use the meetings to address only one problem area. For example, “How do we want to do the laundry?” Or, “How do we want to work together at meals?”
- It’s the parents’ job to make it clear what is or isn’t negotiable.*
As parents, we set the expectation about the family meeting topic of choice for that week. The family meeting gives the kids ownership about how to meet the expectation. This discussion leads to all kids eventually taking more ownership for their responsibilities within the family.
“Family Meetings give everyone in the family an opportunity to participate and have a voice, while allowing the family to stay connected!” So if you don’t yet meet as a family, get started! Keep it simple and fun.
Positive Parenting Tool:
Several years ago some Adlerians recorded a bunch of family meetings in different families. For two years they looked for the perfect family meeting. Finally they gave up because they couldn’t find a perfect family meeting. However, they were delighted with the positive results in families (more effective communication, focusing on solutions, having more fun together) even though their meetings were not perfect.
Keeping in mind that mistakes are wonderful opportunities to learn, the biggest mistake parents made that kept the meetings from coming closer to perfection was talking too much. Children are not thrilled about family meetings that provide another platform for parents to lecture. Parents need to talk less and listen more. Somehow we parents think we aren’t doing our jobs unless we are talking, talking, talking.
Family meetings are one of the most important tools parents can use to teach children so many valuable social and life skills such as:
- Listening skills
- Brainstorming skills
- Problem-solving skills
- Mutual respect
- The value of cooling off before solving a problem. (Problems are put on the family meeting agenda so a cooling off period takes place before focusing on solutions to the challenge.)
- Concern for others
- Accountability in a safe environment. (People don’t worry about admitting mistakes when they know they will be supported to find solutions instead of experiencing blame, shame, or pain.)
- How to choose solutions that are respectful to everyone concerned
- A sense of belonging and significance
- Social interest
- That mistakes are wonderful opportunities to learn
- Having fun together as a family
Family Meetings provide an opportunity for parents to:
- Avoid power struggles by respectfully sharing control
- Avoid micromanaging children, so children learn self-discipline
- Listen in ways that invite children to listen
- Respectfully share responsibility
- Create good memories through a family tradition
- Model all of the skills they want their children to learn
Where else can you get so much for such a small investment in time? Family meetings provide a wonderful family tradition that may carry on for generations.
It is most effective to have family meetings once a week and to stick to the allotted time of 20 to 30 minutes—even if everything on the agenda has not been covered. This will help your children learn “delayed gratification.” Also, it gives them time to absorb what was discussed during the meeting, to try the agreed upon solution, and to practice working things out for themselves in between meetings.
If you need help getting your Family Meetings started, consider getting the Family Meeting Album. This download product provides a step-by-step process for starting and organizing family meetings. A family meeting album can be as much fun as a photo album. You and your family will chuckle as you look back at past challenges you solved together. You will enjoy looking at your family mottos, gratitude pages, mistakes you learned from, problems you solved, fun things you did together, and meals you planned. This album is designed so you can insert a photo of YOUR family to create your own Family Meeting Album. You can print out many of the pages over and over to use each week.
Click here to Purchase a Family Meeting Album for only $2.99!
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