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I would love to hear from people who have regular family meetings. I am curious
1. How often do you have them? 2. What age were your children when you started involving them? 3. Do you limit the amount of time the meeting is? 4. Do you have any special thing that you have found makes the meetings go well? Duct-tape parenting suggests appreciations at the beginning. I kind of like that idea since it makes the meetings not just about problems. 5. What do you usually talk about?
We start with one of two positive things either ''compliments'' or ''gratitude''. We go around the table and give a compliment to someone (we pick give to your left, etc varying each week) and then the next week, we instead each state something we're grateful for from the week.
Then we have ''issues''. If a problem comes up during the week that can't easily be dealt with immediately, we put it on a list and discuss it in family meeting. Most weeks there is no list, but it is helpful to have it when something does come up. The kids are willing to put off the longer discussion when they know it will be taken seriously at meeting. I think the most important part during ''issues'' is to let everyone talk and try to find solutions and not to dominate conversation or make decisions as parents more than is absolutely necessary. Even when the kids bring up frustrating or (to be blunt) stupid things, we treat them very respectfully and seriously. In addition to the list, we ask if anyone has an issue and then discuss it. We try to maintain respectful discussion-- keep it from getting overly silly and make sure everyone gets a chance to express themselves and listens well, etc. Some weeks there are no issues and some weeks there are several.
Then we close with the schedule, when we tell them what is coming up that week.
In terms of timing-- I'm not sure how long they last, but I'd guess about 15 minutes on average. We have sometimes had bigger issues to discuss that lasted long enough with the older kids that we had to excuse the youngest to go run around (not kick her out, but let her leave when she wanted to). Once or twice the meeting has run long enough that things are clearly on the verge of falling apart and we have, by mutual consent, decided to shelve some issues for the next week.
It was a little awkward when we started and my oldest was downright hostile to the idea (she doesn't go for the touchy-feely stuff) but once they realized that their concerns would be seriously and respectfully listened to and that the meetings really did help solve problems, they started to like the meetings (and the dessert didn't hurt, either). It is understood that an issue brought up at family meeting has weight-- it's not just your day-to-day this-is-bugging-me complaint, but a serious issue to be given serious consideration. We also follow up in the next week and ask how things are progressing regarding issues that came up the week before. Hope this is helpful. Good luck!
I have learned (as you mentioned) to also make sure something positive is included; once, my child protested about family meeting because they didn't want to talk about ''solving problems,'' so I suggested, ''Why don't we have a family meeting to say all the things we like about our family?'' My child loved this idea and, after doing that, actually did want to talk about some problems as well. (We also, separately, often do ''gratitudes'' at dinner - one thing you are grateful for - so sometimes we have included this in the family meeting.) Also, once when we were all feeling upset because kid had just had a giant meltdown and parents yelled, we started off with everyone saying how they are feeling right now.
We don't limit the amount of time but we usually do our meetings during dinner (eating while we talk helps my active child to sit more quietly) so we usually end once dinner's over.
When it's the baby's turn, my older child always speaks ''for'' the baby, which is hilarious and cute, but also develops empathy and insight into others' feelings. Of course, at some point the baby will want to speak for self
The meetings have helped us to talk together about both interpersonal problems among ourselves, and some other problems. Some topics we have talked about: parents yelling at kid too much, kid feels they don't get enough time with a particular parent, kid wants a goldfish, kid wants more playdates with a particular friend, parents frustrated with kid whining, bedtime routine for baby is about to change (we used the meeting to plan for the changes), kid having problem with teacher at preschool, parents need more down time, what the heck to do about the baby's sleep... you get the idea. Love family meetings
Usually we go over the schedule for the week first - this solves and prevents SO many problems. My extroverted older son makes plans to call friends for playdates (otherwise he wants to have them at the last minute all the time.) Then we talk about the other items, which range from chore disputes to birthday planning to family improvement projects (getting everyone to turn off lights or eat less sugar, for instance.)
After the kids are done with their ice cream and go off to play, my husband and I have a few minutes to talk about anything better discussed in private. We've been really happy with the family meeting because it keeps little daily irritations in check. The kids like it because they feel like their concerns are being heard. Plus, when a kid makes a ''difficult'' request, it's easy to say ''we'll talk about it at family meeting.'' Yes to the Family Meeting
2. What age were your children when you started involving them? 4 & 7 but I would have started earlier if I'd known about them. 4 is generally a great age to start.
3. Do you limit the amount of time the meeting is? Our meetings range from 10 to 15 minutes to 30 minutes depending on what's going on.
4. Do you have any special thing that you have found makes the meetings go well? Duct-tape parenting suggests appreciations at the beginning. I kind of like that idea since it makes the meetings not just about problems. YES! We always start with compliments and appreciations given to each person including yourself.
5. What do you usually talk about? After the compliments/appreciations we usually check in about what's going on - my children are older now. In the old days we'd discuss fun things we wanted to do together, we still do but it has a different flavor!, disputes, family jobs/responsibilities, meal ideas, trips, needs..... the list goes on and on.
You'll be so happy you started them - esp. when your kids get older - it's a wonderful mechanism for being in touch and staying connected. Even though they complain about them... I can tell the meetings provide an important touchstone for my kids. Hope this helps!! Lisa
Family Meetings are a big part of ''Positive Discipline.'' Check out this link for more information on how to structure them: http://positivediscipline.com/newsletters/family-meetings.html
And here is a link for a document on ''Family Meeting Do's and Don'ts:'' https://www.dropbox.com/s/68i0xnmym1rr6vs/Family%20meetings%20dos%20and%20donts.pdf
To answer your questions,
1. How often do you have them? Weekly.
2. What age were your children when you started involving them? About 4 3. Do you limit the amount of time the meeting is? YES! no more than 30 minutes, including ''Family Fun Time'' Shorter if kids are younger (my kids are 7, 11, and 14)
4. Do you have any special thing that you have found makes the meetings go well? Yes. We rotate leadership for the meeting, and who ever is in charge, gets to choose the family fun activity at the end of the meeting. We also agreed as a family on guidelines for the meeting (only one person talking at a time, for example). We do always start with appreciations, or compliments or gratefulness at the beginning.
5. What do you usually talk about? Here is our agenda:
- Gratitude / Appreciations
- Upcoming week (any big changes or events to make everyone aware of)
- Problem Solving -- we brainstorm solutions to problems (fighting, messes, etc.) and agree on a solution to try for the week.
- Family Fun
I swear by Family Meetings. Have Fun! Marcilie
Sometimes hard ones - especially as they got older and frustrated with one-another at times. But their persistence at our family meetings is how they ended up getting the dog they'd always wanted!
The main thing I wanted to add though, is that each week someone else in the family ran the meeting. That way it's not the parents in charge all the time - it went around the family and they learned how to run a meeting.
We also took minutes and read them at each meeting.
I love the idea of starting with something positive - wish we'd thought of that! Lauren
I'm curious... how many of you have regular family meetings? I grew up in a pretty unhappy home and we never had them. My husband wants to have family meetings 2-3 times a week. So it got me wondering what most families do. Do you have regularly scheduled meetings where you discuss finances, projects, problems, etc. or do you meet on an ad hoc basis as issues arise, or something else? anon
I ask, in part, because I had a family in which we had weekly ''family conferences'' which were AWFUL. Ostensibly, they were meant to be a chance for everyone to bring up anything they felt like discussing. What they ACTUALLY were was a chance for our dad and stepmom to guilt-trip the kids for all of our step-moms problems. They weren't fun for us kids and we didn't feel empowered. As an adult, I now see that these meetings were emotionally abusive. But I think that is because of how these were approached in MY family. I feel pretty sure that this is NOT what you are aiming for .
My point is only to recommend being very conscious about what you DO want, and what your expectations are. If these meetings are to discuss serious issues, discern ahead of time what is an age appropriate way for your kids to participate. Don't keep the meetings too long - set a specific time for them to start and end and *stick* to it (our ''family conferences'' went on for HOURS, I'm sure you can imagine how torturous that would be for kids to sit through).
Also, if the goal is to discuss serious issues (not to just have fun as a family) then I don't recommend meeting more than once per week. That's just not fair to the children, regardless of their age(s).
Which also suggests that, if you do have meetings to discuss serious stuff that you also have meetings just to have fun, or you keep the serious discussion to a certain (relatively short) period of the meeting and THEN do something fun, as a reward to you all for taking care of the serious issues.
I think, if approached in the right way, family meetings can be really beneficial: a way, as I spoke of, to empower your kids and bring the family closer. When my child is old enough, we will do something like this too.
Best of luck! anon
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