I’m a big proponent of family meetings. Every organization that wants to be successful needs to meet and discuss ideas and what’s working and what’s not working and what’s coming up. So, your family needs this too. That’s what I’ve found anyway.
Last week, I was having a problem with my son turning off the PlayStation 3 before school. He wouldn’t turn it off to go walk the dog, eat breakfast, or get ready. And the tactics I've tried before just weren’t working when they usually do. I had to dive deeper so I called a family meeting one weekday night after dinner.
I opened the meeting by saying, “Look, we’re having a real problem in the morning with getting the PlayStation 3 turned off. I’m wondering if we should make it a rule that the PS3 only gets played from Friday afternoon to Sunday evening every week. A lot of families do that and it would make things easier around here. There would be less complaining and eye rolling. What do you both think?” and I looked at my husband and son. My husband nodded and said that sounded like a good idea.
I turned to my son and he quickly replied, “Um, well, what if we just set it up so I can’t play the PS3 in the mornings but I can play after school after my homework is done?” I did not think he would come up with that. It was perfect. Given the alternative of no PS3 during the week, I guess he was willing to compromise on this. My husband and I looked at each other and agreed. There was no arguing or further complications around the issue. We ended the quick meeting with the “What I Love About You” exercise which you can read about below. It was an amazing family meeting where the issue was resolved quickly and easily.
I enjoy our family meetings but there are some basic ground rules that need to be followed to make it successful.
How To Run A Family Meeting
Set up a time and place for a short 20 minute meeting where everyone is comfortable and can see each other (dining tables work well).
Let everyone know that no electronic devices are allowed at the meeting and no one is to answer the phone. This is family time. This lets everyone know that this time together is important—parents- don’t go breaking this rule.
Inform everyone that there may be a list of several agenda items but that anyone can bring up a concern or idea at the end.
Bring a talking stick to the meeting. This can be a stuffed animal, pillow, a stone, or an actual stick. Its purpose is to let everyone know whose turn it is to speak. Remind other members about this if they speak out of turn or have them pass the talking stick on to that family member.
End each meeting with the “One Thing I Love About You” exercise. Each person must share one thing they love about each and every family member. and go around the circle until everyone has done it. Use the talking stick to take turns. (Example: This would mean a young boy in a family of four would share one thing he loves about his sister, mother, and father. He would say “One thing I love about my sister is that I like to her hear play the violin. One thing I love about my Mom are her hugs. One thing I love about Dad is how he makes me laugh.”)
Family Meeting Rules
To speak, you must have the talking stick.
Everyone is to be heard and listened to. This is a safe place for family members to speak their mind. Critical remarks, sarcasm, or making fun of others is not tolerated at a family meeting. Create a consequence if this behavior creeps up and make all family members aware of it. (Example: If you are caught criticizing, you have to do the dishes that night.)
No electronic devices allowed at any time. No phone calls. No texting. This means you parents!
Any concerns brought up during the meeting will receive respect and thoughtful consideration by all family members. If you can’t think of a solution to the problem, table it, think on it, and address it later.
Make this a safe and happy time for your family by being loving and respectful at all times. If this means you must close your mouth and refrain from talking, do it.
Everyone must participate in the “One Thing I Love About You” exercise.
Anyone can call a family meeting even the youngest, smallest member of the family.
When someone calls a family meeting, a parent must evaluate if it’s an appropriate time and place and see if all members can attend. If not, then a future time and place will be set for the meeting.
Recognize that your family is a team that works together and laughs together as well as lives together. Each person is important and needs to support everyone else.
Family meetings have made a real difference in our family. My son feels like he can call a meeting if he is having an issue or we can call one to discuss family vacations and what needs to happen before then. We often call meetings to discuss sports options for my son and see what he wants to do and weigh the options. Or you can just call one because it feels like it’s time and allow for issues to come up during the meeting. Some kids might not call a meeting but have something to say when you are all assembled. Allow for that to happen.
Just make sure it’s a heart-centered, safe place for all of you to open up and share. Connections will happen and smiles will be had.