We started holding family meetings when the first two children were two and three years old – and held family meetings for most of thirty years. When I made the invitation, the children were very excited. They didn’t know what a meeting was, but they knew it was important and grown-up.
Why hold family meetings?
To gain cooperation.
To give children the opportunity to solve problems.
To involve children in some decisions.
To allow children to feel important and “heard”.
How to hold family meetings:
Have a special 3-ring binder available. I like a binder that has a clear cover into which you can insert a cover page - made by your child. In this binder you will keep the meeting agenda and minutes.
Children and parents can put items on the agenda. If it is an issue that affects several members of the family, it can be discussed at the meeting. Sometimes, if a question or problem comes up during the week, I’d say seriously, “That’s very important. Why don’t you put that on the agenda for the family meeting?” If an issue involves only one child, parents discuss it privately with that child. Try to avoid disciplining one child in the presence of his siblings.
If a child can’t yet write, he can dictate the agenda item to someone who can, or he can draw a picture on the agenda.
The parents could very likely come up with a long list of agenda items. Restrain yourself, limiting yourself to one or two issues, and keeping meetings under fifteen minutes, perhaps as short as five minutes. Observe how long your children can stay focused.
Hold your meeting at the same time every week. Choose a time during the week that everyone is likely to be home. If someone is missing, we usually don’t meet.
What is discussed at the meeting?
The following three-part meeting has worked for us over the years:
We start with acknowledgements or “Thank you’s”. Ideally, each person thanks everyone else for something, so no one is left out.
“Thank you for helping your sister with her project.”
“Thank you for driving me to my friend’s house.”
Acknowledgements can be written on the agenda so they are not forgotten. I have seen amazing growth in my children’s ability to appreciate others through this weekly exercise.
Discuss problems one at a time. Problems may be listed on the agenda, or brought up at the meeting. The concerned person states the problem. It is helpful to avoid blaming. Ask family members how they have been affected by the problem. Allow the children to brainstorm solutions, listing them in the minutes. They usually come up with the same solutions the adults would think of, but they are MUCH more likely to follow through because they thought of the solution. Decide together which solution to try, and gain everyone’s cooperation. Record this in the minutes. At the next meeting, discuss whether the solution is working.
All of your children can contribute to the minutes by writing and/or drawing what was discussed.
Look together at the calendar. What is coming up? Who needs a ride where? What should we do over spring break? How much can we spend? What holiday and birthday preparations need to be made? Plan gifts for relatives and friends far in advance - this allows time for being truly thoughtful, perhaps creating a handmade gift.
Notice that the discussion of problems is sandwiched in between two positives: thank you’s and planning. Starting and ending positively is uplifting, and seems to help us keep a positive outlook as we work to solve problems.
You might follow up with some family fun!
Let me know about your family meetings: firstname.lastname@example.org