One of the most important parts of family meetings is "compliments"; it can be the thing that makes family meetings something to look forward to. Learning to deliver a compliment is a skill that takes time to develop and a lot of gentle coaching can be very helpful, too. Expect it to take many, many times of practicing before delivering a genuine compliment, that lands well, becomes thoroughly learned. Of course, the BEST compliments recognize a trait or quality in someone, but anything positive to say about someone is a good start.
As Kristina mentioned, we want to encourage kids to say something genuinely positive. An insult, disguised as a compliment (such as, “You didn’t give me a dirty look today” or “At least you didn’t destroy anything recently”) can come off as back-handed and doesn’t invite others to feel good. Sometimes, we’ve suspended a family meeting, for a while, until one person has time to feel better and think about their compliments, so they can be in a place where they can deliver compliments positively.
Another important part of compliments, in family meetings, is to include a compliment for yourself (GASP! I know, I know!). If you were raised not to be boastful, it can be very difficult to say, out loud, that there is a quality about yourself that you like, admire or appreciate. With practice, you will feel more comfortable giving yourself compliments. Plus, the rest of your family gets to hear of things about you that they may not even be aware of! For example, maybe you’re great with numbers and keeping the budget on track and they may not see that at all.
In parenting classes, we have learned that it is difficult for MANY adults to accept a compliment, especially if they were not accustomed to compliments when they were growing up. Often, adults will simply not say anything, at all, in response to a compliment; unfortunately, that leaves the person delivering the compliment wondering if it was even received. One thing you might try saying is, “Thank you for saying so!” even if you don’t see yourself the way they do.
Great compliments focus on traits or qualities of the other person (or yourself!). Ideally, a compliment of a trait or quality is followed with a brief example. For instance, “I’m impressed with how thoughtful you are, like the craft gift you made for your friend” or “I love that you are helpful, like showing your brother how to play the new game”.
A genuine compliment lands in such a way as it invites people to respond with “Thank You”; a ‘Thank You’ (such as, for doing something nice for me today) lands in such a way that it invites people to respond with “You’re Welcome”. If you get a “You’re Welcome”, in response to your compliment, next time try to focus your compliment on a trait or quality. By the way, you can turn anything into a genuine compliment by looking for the quality or trait behind it (for instance, if someone helped you out, the trait or quality might be “helpful” or “considerate”).
It really helps to cite an example so that the other person, in your family, is clear about what you mean. For instance, you might say:
“I love that you are enthusiastic, like how excited you were about the new recipe we tried”
“I appreciate that you are understanding, like how you handled that moment yesterday when things didn’t go as planned.”
In these cases, ‘enthusiastic’ and ‘understanding’ are the trait or quality that is being recognized.
My daughter actually said that she likes Family Meetings as a way to solve problems in the family. Granted, she was defending family meetings against her sister, who was railing against them, at the time, but it was good to hear!
One of the BEST reasons to have regular family meetings, once a week, is that you treat ideas as just a one-week experiment; you only have to try taking on an idea for 7 days! If someone in the family comes up with a wacky idea, you might give it a try if it’s only for a week. And, hey, the whole family might get to learn how well that wacky idea didn’t work (or maybe it did!).
Do's and Don’ts for Successful Family Meetings
Remember the long-term purpose, to teach valuable social and life skills.
Post an agenda where family members can write their problems.
Start with compliments to set the tone by verbalizing positive things about each other.
Brain storm for solutions to problems. Choose one suggestion (by consensus) that is practical and respectful and try it for one week.
Focus on solutions, not blame.
Calendar a family fun activity every week.
Keep family meetings short (10-30 minutes), depending on the ages of your children.
End with a family fun activity.
Use family meetings as a platform for lectures, micromanaging or parental control.
Allow children to dominate and control. Mutual respect is the key.
Skip weekly family meetings. They should be the most important thing on your calendar.
Forget that mistakes are wonderful opportunities to learn.
Forget that learning skills takes time. Even solutions that don’t work provide an opportunity to learn and try again-always focusing on respect and solutions.
Expect children under the age of four to participate. If younger children are distracting, wait until they are in bed or place the baby in the swing by the family or a toddler can color at the table with the family.
Give family meetings a try, you just might find them to be one of the most valuable parenting tools for your family!