Welcome to the follow on article in this series on cooperative families. In this third article, I’ll discuss the what, why’s and how’s around family meetings. Family meetings are an essential foundation for cooperative families as well as positive and respectful relationships between all members.
Family meetings sound boring. Just another thing to do on the to-do list that you’re not sure will make a difference and that your kids or partner couldn’t care less about. Right?
A family meeting can be a positive or negative experience. It can be something that is useful or just another chore that no-one wants to do. It’s all in the execution.
The success lies in your motivation behind setting one up. If you’re reading and following on with this series of articles, then I can hazard a good guess that wanting family cooperation is high up on your list! Cooperation starts with communication. Use your first family meeting to get everyone talking and build from there.
You may already be having regular family meetings and not even recognise it. Do you talk about things that have happened, or what’s comin up for the next week with your kids or partner or spouse? Do you stand in the kitchen and plan the meals for the week with the input of your family? If you answered yes, then you’re having a family meeting!
A family meeting doesn’t have to be sitting down at a specific one with an agenda, taking notes and putting together an action strategy – sounds very business like doesn’t it! It can be simple or complex. Informal or formal. The thing that makes the most difference is that its done on a regular basis with a goal in mind.
Family Meetings Do’s and Dont’s
Let’s look at setting up a family meeting and some do’s and don’ts to make is a bit easier for everyone involved.
Family Meeting Do’s:
- Do it regularly. The most effective meetings happen when it becomes a habit and part of the family routine.
- Chose one or two topics only. Family meetings that go over too many things don’t work as well. If you have little children, remember they can’t concentrate for long. Too many topics leads to confusion, ineffective communication and things being forgotten.
- Be prepared. When you’re prepared for a meeting it’s easier and quicker. Let’s say you want to discuss family rules like in the last article. Thinking about what potential family rules you want to discuss will mean you gain clarity, meaning they’re easier to enforce. If you’re discussing plans for the week come prepared with the calendar or a list of what’s happening for each member of the family.
- Set a time limit. Little kids eat bored quickly. We’ve all been stuck in long boring meetings that could have been a quick email. We can’t email our children but we can make meeting short and sweet! Keeping them quick will help them feel less like a chore meaning more cooperation next time
Family Meeting Don’ts
- Don’t try and do it every single day. Going overboard (especially in the beginning) can make family meetings become an overwhelming burden for everyone and something that you (or your kids) won’t want to continue.
- Don’t just wing it. Come up with a plan before starting regular family meetings. It will help you be specific and keep to the time limit.
- Don’t make it boring. Sitting at the table or on the couch all together can be a little tedious for kids, especially if they want to be up moving about. Stand up and play a game. Jump around to break it up before a topic change. Allow all of you to move your bodies an it will all go easier.
“Whatever you do make it yours!”
Here in this article I’ve set our broad guidelines as a place to start with setting up a family meeting. The most important thing is to make it work for YOUR family.
- If it’s best to have a quick check in in the mornings at breakfast time then go with that.
- If you like to have it after dinner during the week, or only on Sunday nights then roll with it.
- Perhaps family meetings in the car between transitions between different activities work best for you. Roll with it!
The underlying concept of family meetings is working together. It requires all members of the family (parents and children) to listen to everyone, to share their viewpoints ideas or suggestions.
It is not a time when the parents just tell their kids what to do. It’s not just a time of kids telling their parents what they want. It’s about creating that environment of mutual respect that help families be more cooperative.
Family Meetings and Family Rules?
In the last article I spoke specifically about how to set up family rules. The key to family rules that work, that our kids listen to and that support the childhood development is that they are discussed about BEFORE an emotional situation.
For example if you are putting in place a rule about being respectful and responsible for belongings. It’s important to discuss this with your children before getting cranky that the toys have been left out and laundry is on the floor.
The family meeting could run something like this:
“Hey kids, We (I, if you’re a single parent household) want to quickly have a chat about one of the family rules. It’s the one where we’re striving to be respectful and responsible for our belongings. I see how lots of the laundry is still being left on the floor. Have you noticed this?
Do you think that’s being respectful and responsible for your clothes?
(Let kids answer)
What changes could we make to make it easier for the clothes to go in the laundry basket?
(Asking for suggestions and offer help)
Great so we’ve got a plan that we’re going to work towards. Let’s see how many times this week the laundry can go in the basket.
Then: Throughout the week when you notice clothes on the floor.
“Remember how we talked about being responsible for our clothes. Please put your clothes in the basket before getting into the bath.
“Thanks for remembering to put your dirty clothes in the basket. I appreciate that you listened and are looking after your clothes.
What‘s the next step?
This is just one example of talking about family rules and reinforcing them during the week. Can you see how discussing the rule before hand will help your children understand the why behind it? This understanding enhances cooperation and reduces your frustration about your kids not understanding that the rule was even in place.
Go and have a family meeting! Don’t just read this article, save it, share it and don’t take action.
I’d love to hear how family meetings go for you. Share your experiences below in the comments. If you’re already having one, how do you run yours?