Family Meeting How-To’s
Family meetings can be one of your best discipline strategies as a parent. Here’s what your kids learn from participating in family meetings:
- Listening skills
- Brainstorming skills
- Problem-solving skills
- Mutual respect
- The value of cooling off before solving a problem
- Concern for others
- Accountability in a safe environment
- How to choose solutions that are respectful to everyone concerned
- A sense of belonging and significance
- Social responsibility
- That mistakes are wonderful opportunities for leaning
Further, family meetings provide an opportunity for parents to:
- Avoid power struggles by respectfully sharing control
- Avoid micro-managing 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
Problems are shared in family meetings. The children contribute to or create the solutions, along with Mom and Dad. Parents do not take over responsibility for carrying out the family’s decision; the children share the job of enforcing the rules. The rules apply to everyone in the family, including Mom and Dad.
Family Meeting How-To’s
Hold them once a week, without fail. Nothing should interfere (so ask your kids to turn off their cell phones – and you do the same!).
Don’t skip a meeting because you are busy or have something else to do, as the kids will follow your lead in determining the importance of family meetings.
Attendance isn’t required. But let kids know they’ll be missed, that their input is important to you, and that they are expected to abide by whatever decisions are reached in the meeting whether they are there or not.
Sitting at a cleared table is helpful to staying on task for problem solving.
Don’t let them drag on too long. For instance, begin with only 10 or 15 minutes.
Decisions should be made by consensus. A majority vote in a family meeting can make family division worse. If the family cannot come to an agreement on how to handle an agenda item, it should be tabled until the next meeting. A cooling-off period to think of new ideas can really help.
Include a review of the next week’s activities.
Meetings shouldn’t end without planning a family fun activity during the coming week.
End the meting by doing something together as a family. You might want to play a game together, pop corn, have a special treat. Don’t watch tv unless there is a program that the whole family looks forward to watching.
Components of the Meeting
Chairperson: this job should rotate
- Kids ages 4 to 5 and older can take turns with this role.
- Responsibilities: call meeting to order, start the compliments, begin the problem-solving session, and make sure everyone has a turn to voice an opinion or make a suggestion.
Secretary: this job should also rotate
- Keeps notes of problems discussed and decisions made (Keep the minutes in a notebook, for easy reference)
Compliments: start every meeting by having each person give every other member of the family a compliment. Or, you can alternate between compliments and sharing what you are grateful for. Each person shares one of each.
Agenda: post an agenda on the fridge that everyone can add items to
- Suggested order: appreciations, old business, new business, review of week ahead, closing
- Go through the “new business” from your agenda on the fridge in chronological order so that a decision does not have to be made about what is most important
Problem solving: solutions must be agreed upon by consensus
- Go beyond consequences – we can avoid power struggles by focusing on solutions instead of thinking of consequences for every problem
- When you implement a solution, there is to be no further discussion for the rest of the week. After that, bring it back up as an agenda item for the next family meeting.
Planning activities: family members are more willing to cooperate when they have shared in planning events everyone will enjoy.
- In addition, include vacations – use this planning time before you go to have a discussion about possible problems and how to avoid them.
Planning for family fun: weekly family fun activities
- Spend time as a family, individually with each of the kids, and as a couple.
Nelsen, Jane. Positive Discipline. 2006.
Schafer, Alyson. Breaking the Good Mom Myth. 2007.
Want more ideas on family meetings? Check out my other article here, as well as ideas for using family meetings to plan to have summer fun, reduce kids’ stress, and side-step power struggles.