One of the first Positive Discipline tools that I started using was Family Meetings. As I was learning more about the Positive Discipline approach, I was reflecting on my own family’s dynamics. I noticed that there was a big disconnect in the communications we were having as a family, which resulted in a lot of power struggles. My husband and I were also growing weary of nagging and yelling at our children in order to get them to put their lunches away, pick up their clothes and toys, and to help clear the table after dinner.
After learning about both the importance of holding regular family meetings and how to integrate them, it made sense to me that this would be a good first step for us. I had no idea that such a small change would create a huge improvement in the way our household was running.
The components of a family meeting are:
- Brainstorming for Solutions
- Calendar for the week (including scheduling a family fun activity/outing)
- After meeting fun activity such as a game or movie
When you first introduce a family meeting, it is important to take time for training all the different parts of the meeting. This is done by practicing one component a week for the first month (or for however long it takes). Also, I have found it helpful after the training period, to have my children run the meetings, and to have the majority of the agenda topics be their concerns. It has been very enlightening to get their perspectives and ideas when brainstorming for solutions. Also, when you have your children participate in brainstorming and agree to a solution, they are much more likely to abide by the agreement (rather than be told to).
In the beginning, as with any big change you initiate, you can expect that there is going to be some resistance from family members. At our very first family meeting, our youngest wanted to play at the table and disrupted us to get attention. He left the first meeting and refused to attend the second. We explained to him that we would implement any decisions that were agreed to at the meeting. By the third meeting, he was attending and happily participating.
I found the realization that each of us had our own priorities to be extremely helpful, and that what was important for me, wasn’t necessarily even on the radar of being important to my children. The beauty of the family meeting is that you write your concerns down on the weekly agenda sheet and you talk about them once a week, at a time when you aren’t irritated or angry. It is also really helpful to address any of your concerns as your problem that you need help solving. By addressing our concerns as our own problems, we are removing any blame or even shame from our children.
Family meetings are not meant to magically solve your family problems, once and for all. The solutions you have agreed on will often have to be revisited at a future meeting, when everyone begins to slide into old patterns. Additionally, some of your agreed on solutions, end up not working at all, and have to be put back on the agenda to try something else.
The importance of the family meeting is to bring connection and open communication among family members. You will also be teaching your children the important life skills of listening, brainstorming, problem solving, mutual respect, and bringing a sense of belonging and significance to everyone.
I hope you find family meetings helpful for your own family.