I used to laugh at parents who had family meetings. I thought they were the funniest thing. I was knee-deep in work meetings at the time and couldn’t fathom why anyone would want to bring that tedium into the home. Speaking of which, Bart once attended a work meeting to discuss why they had too many meetings. See, meetings are funny.
Well, meetings are still funny, but only because we’ve been having them for years and it still amuses me how seriously the kids take them (except Max, Max does not take the family meetings seriously. We may have to cut him loose.) Family meetings are definitely twee and a bit cutesy, but so be it. They work for us.
So, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking: why? Why introduce such structure to the casual wonderfulness that is family life? Well, there is casual wonderfulness and then there is parents who get to the end of their tether with the “way things are going around here” and need an outlet. I used to yell and go a bit crazy, now I just call an emergency family meeting.
How the family meeting works
We don’t have routine meeting or anything. I’m sure there are some families out there who would like to meet at 3pm every Sunday in the lounge room, but we are not one of them. Instead, we pull together a family meeting when too many things are just not being attended to the way we would like. Anyone can call a meeting, but if you call it, you have to chair it.
I put a call out that a family meeting will happen at this time and ask everyone to let me know if they want to talk about anything during the meeting. The kids always have lots to talk about. Sometimes we make an official agenda, sometimes we don’t. It depends on how much we have to get through and how important the outcomes are.
We chair the meetings like a real-life meeting, welcoming the tribe to the table and letting them know the order of business. Everyone gets a turn to speak, but you have to put your hand up first and you can’t say silly things (Max).
What we talk about at a family meeting
Items that are generally on the agenda include:
Behaviours that we would like others to change
Mum is yelling too much lately; kids’ bedrooms need to be kept tidier; enough with the back talk; why isn’t anyone setting the dinner table in time anymore; what happened to 2 minute teeth brushing; stop leaving your shoes in the doorway; etc.
Max keeps picking on me; Badoo won’t clean her half of the room; Cappers is mean; Dad keeps singing; Mum sighs too much, etc.
New house rules
The old screen rules aren’t working, what do you think of this new plan; we need a new roster for evening chores, who really doesn’t want to do what; we need timed showers; who is going to feed the fish and when, etc.
Suggestions for harmonious living
Can we move to Paris; can we get a new trampoline; can I have my own bedroom; can we get a new car; can we go to a different park every Tuesday, etc.
The outcome of a family meeting
We try not to end a meeting without a plan. So, if someone raises a grievance, we all work together to find a satisfactory way to change things. The hope is that each person leaves the meeting feeling like:
- I have been heard
- I have contributed to family outcomes
- My contribution is valuable
- I know exactly what is expected of me
- I have a plan to change things that are bothering me
- I like my family very much
The benefits of a family meeting
Family meetings have a lot of structure, so they diffuse the usual chaos of family chats where everyone gets overly-enthusiastic and talks over the top of everyone else. Aside from the above list, the best things about family meetings is that they calm things down. Having a plan always calms things down. Our family meetings give me an outlet to say, “right, I’ve had enough, I’m calling a meeting, be there.” They allow us to step away from a hot situation and coolly examine it, ready to talk and change it.
You might say, I’m not laughing at family meetings anymore, I’m laughing with them…
What do you think of family meetings? Too much? Good idea?
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