Using Family Meetings as a Positive Parenting Tool
Are family meetings a regular part of the routine at your house? Family meetings can be such a positive part of family life, and can have really positive impacts on virtually all areas of your life as a family unit. Family meetings can also be a lot of fun, and any time you intentionally set aside time to spend together as a family, you are bound to make many fond memories!
Why should you have family meetings?
Family meetings are about more than just mom and dad getting the kids to fall in line. It’s a time for the whole family to get to weigh in on different issues affecting the family. Children learn many valuable skills, like listening, respecting different opinions, verbalizing their feelings and problem solving. Family meetings are also a great place for kids to experience how you can learn from your mistakes and how to focus on solutions to problems.
Some Tips For Effective Family Meetings
To be most effective, family meetings will ideally be held once a week. Choose a time and stick to it. Make sure that you show your kids how important the time is to you, and don’t let life interfere. It will quickly become a time that everyone in the family looks forward to. Sitting at a cleared table is a nice way to make sure you stay on task for solving problems. Sitting in the living room can also work, but trying to eat during the meeting is not usually a good idea as it is too distracting.
During the family meeting, decisions should be made by consensus. If the whole family can’t agree on an agenda item, set it aside until the next meeting when perhaps additional cooling-off time will make it easier for everyone to come to a mutually agreeable decision. End your family meeting by spending time together as a family doing something fun. This can be a good time to play games together, enjoy a special dessert, or some other activity that your family enjoys. Try not to watch TV unless there is a show that everyone in the family enjoys. Family members can and should have jobs during the family meeting. You could have a “secretary” or “recorder” who takes notes during the meeting, writing down all of the ideas during brainstorm sessions. Each week, you could appoint a different person to be the “chairperson”, who handles the meeting agenda and keeps the meeting on track. Someone could also be the “timekeeper” who makes sure that the meeting doesn’t run too long. Other ideas for jobs may come up that help the family meetings to flow well in your household. Consider making a family meeting album where you keep records of challenges you solved together, things you were grateful for, mistakes that you learned lessons from, and fun things you did together.
Family Meeting Agenda
You may be thinking that this all sounds great, but, what exactly should you DO at a family meeting? Here’s an agenda that has achieved positive results for many families. Feel free to adjust it to meet your needs:
Start the meeting by sharing compliments with other members of your family. This creates a positive atmosphere and children learn to look for and verbalize things they appreciate about the people around them. Also, children tend to fight less when they have a regular time of sharing compliments with each other - a huge bonus in my house full of energetic boys! During this time, it’s important for each member of the family to give a compliment to every other member of the family. If it’s difficult for some family members to come up with these on the spot, you can try to collect these compliments throughout the week by adding a compliment sheet to the fridge or another place in your home. Or, you can have a time of reflection at the beginning of the meeting where everyone spends some time thinking of compliments for each other.
Evaluating last week’s solutions
You don’t need to spend a lot of time dwelling on past meetings, but it is valuable to spend a bit of time reflecting as a family on any solutions you implemented over the past week. Acknowledge and celebrate any successes! If some things didn’t go well, you can evaluate your solutions and think of what you can do differently as a family moving forward.
Solutions for this week’s challenges
During this part of the meeting, anyone in the family can present specific challenges that they may be facing. Then, as a family, work together to discuss solutions to these challenges and how you will implement them as a family. Give every family member a chance to speak and offer insight and be respectful of each persons opinions.
Meal planning calendar
Having the whole family participate in meal planning can be a lot of fun and can help remove the burden from tasking one family member with it all the time. Even young kids can offer meal suggestions or even prepare simple meals. Everyone should get a chance to suggest something they’d like to enjoy that week, and where possible, try to make it happen!
Weekly calendar planning
It’s important to dedicate some of your family meeting time to reviewing the next week’s schedule. This becomes even more important as your children get older and need rides to a variety of extracurriculars. Bring a calendar to the meeting and discuss upcoming events, special days and who will do what. Make sure to plan some special time for the family to spend together, and regular time that each kid gets special attention from one or both parents.
Family Fun Activity (game, treats, etc)
To finish off your meeting, enjoy a fun activity like a game or a special treat. Finishing off the meeting on a fun note is a great way to guarantee positive feelings about the meetings from family members.