Family meetings are one of the most important parenting tools to implement because it teaches your children so many social and life skills, such as; communication skills, leadership skills, problem-solving skills, perspective-taking, mutual respect, cooperation, accountability in a safe environment, a sense of belonging and significance, that mistakes are wonderful opportunities to learn and so much more!
10 Steps for Successful Family Meetings
First, let your family know that you would like to start having family meetings and why you feel it is important. Next, go over the steps for a family meeting and let them know you will go over these steps each time until everybody has learned them.
Compliments and Appreciations
“Each of us will share one thing we appreciate about each family member. I will start, I appreciate…or I would like to compliment…or I noticed…” Give each family member a compliment and then have everybody else do the same. In the beginning, this may be all that you do. It takes time to teach the skill of
Family Meeting Agenda
“The agenda will be placed on the refrigerator so everyone can right down problems throughout the week. At first, you will have to teach the kids by asking them, “Is this a problem we should put on the family meeting agenda?”
“This item will be passed around to help everyone to remember that only one person, the one with the talking stick or stuffed animal, can talk at a time, and that everyone gets a turn”. This too takes practice.
“Brainstorming means thinking of as many solutions as possible. All ideas are ok without discussion. Brainstorming, is too a learned skill.
Focus on Solutions
“Let’s practice with the problem on the agenda. Who would like to be our scribe and write down every suggestion?”
Encourage the Kids To Go First
“Who would like to start with some wild and crazy ideas?” If no one speaks up you might need to get them started with some wild ideas and some practical ones by saying, “What about throwing dishes in the garbage?” “What if each of us takes one day of the week?” But, first allow for silence. If someone objects to a suggestion, say, “For now we are just brainstorming for solutions. All ideas will be written down”.
Use the 3 R’s and a H to Assess Proposed Solutions
Encouraging solutions must be (1) related, (2) reasonable, (3) respectful, and (4) helpful. “Who can see any solutions we need to eliminate because they are not related, reasonable, respectful, or helpful? Our scribe can cross them off after we discuss why”.
Choosing the Solution
“Do we want to narrow the ideas down to one solution or try more than one? We can evaluate hoe the solution or solutions worked during our next meeting, in one week”.
“We will take turns choosing an activity for the end of each family meeting”.
-Adapted from Positive Discipline
When my family first started family meetings, my kids were 15, 12, 9 and 3 years old. It was a challenge to find the time. My daughter was a competitive gymnast who was in the gym until 8:30 pm most nights and often competed all weekend. My two eldest boys played competitive soccer on the weekends. I tried hard to make it a priority and usually had family meetings on Sunday evenings. My youngest son was still a bit too young and could be distracting, but we kept him at our side coloring while we had our meeting.
I remember, how difficult it was for my kids to give each other genuine compliments, in the beginning. It would usually go something like, “Thanks, for not being a butthead today” “I appreciate that you didn’t hit me” Although, it wasn’t long that compliments and appreciations were the best part of our week and found their way into our daily interactions with each other.
The biggest mistake I made in the beginning was having the family meeting go on too long. I was so focused on making sure that we did everything on the agenda, despite all the distractions and it lead to my children being put off by family meetings. My advice, is keep it short and sweet, especially in the beginning. Also, I should have made sure the problems discussed in the first family meetings were my children’s challenges, not mine, in order to teach them the benefits of having family meetings.
One topic that came up frequently, were chores. That’s ok, because the kids came up with lots of creative ways to motivate themselves to complete chores and when it was no longer working, we would revisit the issue.
Lastly, have fun with each other! Remember, how much your children are learning during this time together. It will be a family tradition they pass on to their roommates and eventually to their own families.