…And is continuing to change our family…for the better, of course.
It was the typical stuff all families encounter.
“Is it really that hard to turn off a light when you leave the room?!”
“Why are your coats and backpacks on the floor when your hook is just a foot away?”
“Is it really necessary to say ‘poop’ every 5th word you utter?”
“That whining voice is about to drive me insane!”
But, I didn’t want to live like that. I didn’t want to have negativity spewing from my mouth at every sentence. I wanted to eliminate the nagging. I wanted my kids to take responsibility for their things, their household responsibilities, and their behavior.
My older two boys are the kind of kids who just came out of the womb wanting do what is right (my youngest is a bit of a different story). Despite being great kids, they’re still kids who make unholy messes, have bad habits, lose their tempers (etc., etc., etc.), and who need constant loving guidance from their parents. Instead of trying to guide when frustrated, when you can no longer tolerate a certain behavior–because, honestly, my guidance when I’m frustrated isn’t very loving–we decided to take a more proactive approach.
The Family Meeting
About 8 months ago The Husband, a psychologist, announced that we were going to have a once a week family meeting. The meeting would focus on personal improvement with the hope of a trickle down effect in strengthening our family.
Each week we each choose something to work on for that week. Sometimes the kids volunteer something they want to work on, and sometimes my husband or I will suggest something for them to work on.
Thus far, we’ve kept the things we chose to work on very simple. Changes are brought about over time, and we don’t want anyone getting frustrated with family meetings. The simplicity of our family meetings has been so successful that our kids all look forward to family meeting and are the first to announce that, “It’s Family Meeting time!”
Tips for Successful Family Meetings
- Establish a specific day and time each week and stick to it. Consistency is key in parenting. We eat dinner together each night, so we felt like dinnertime would be the easiest time to hold our family meeting. We hold our family meetings during dinner each Monday night. If you happen to miss a family meeting, try to hold it on the next day.
- Keep it casual: One of the things that makes family meeting so successful is the casual nature of it. No one is targeted for a glaring flaw. Focus on simple things that are easy to work on over the course of a week or two or three. Alternate parental suggestions with allowing the kids to suggest their own things to work on. Keep it positive.
- Ask the kids for input on their own progress: “How do you feel like you did with ____ this week?” You might be surprised by how insightful your kids are. After asking your kids for their input, offer your own about how your kids did with the things they were working on that week.
- Recognize success and express gratitude: Even small improvements are successes. Remember, it takes quite a bit of time and effort to break old habits or to form new ones. Recognize your kids’ successes, and praise them or express gratitude for specific things they did well during the week.
- Use “maintenance” mode: In my background in behavioral training, we put skills into “maintenance” after they were mastered. In a Family Meeting setting this would look something like this… Your child has worked on a skill and has shown great improvement. You’re ready to work on something new, but you want to make sure they don’t lose all the progress they’ve made with other skills or behaviors, so you add one new thing to work while emphasizing that you want them to continue working on a maximum of two already mastered skills/behaviors.
- Parents get involved too: While the things you work on may differ greatly from what your kids are working on, they’ll delight to see Mom and Dad getting involved in some of their own self-improvement. And what better way to teach than to teach by example.
One last tip: If you need a little extra help getting the kids excited about this new addition to your family, have family meeting in conjunction with a special dessert night. “Family Meeting and Ice Cream” will help resistant kids associate Family Meeting with something fun.
A few of the things we’ve tackled at our family meetings…
- Turning off lights when leaving a room
- Flushing the toilet (LOL, have boys? Sound familiar?)
- Getting to school 10 minutes earlier
- Not leaving dishes at the table
- Not whining when bothered by younger sibling
- Not chewing fingernails
- Playing more & seeking out media less
- Showing mom homework folders
- Listening right away (an apt one for our four year old)
- Less “potty talk”
- Hanging up coats and back packs
- Having a positive attitude when asked to help around the house (this one has been AMAZING)
Mom and Dad
- Going to bed earlier so we won’t be grumpy parents
- Drinking more water
- Treating our children with greater respect
- Be on our smartphones less
Family meetings have virtually eliminated nagging from Mom and Dad. A simple, kindly delivered, reminder of “what are you working on this week?” is enough to spur our kids into action. Oftentimes, the boys remind each other of the things they ought to do or not to do per our family meeting items.
Our hearts almost burst with parental pride when, earlier this week, The Husband and I listened to our two older boys describe how they held their own private family meeting in their bedroom the other night. The nine year old decided that this week he was going to work on teasing his younger brother less, so that he could “be a better older brother” to him.
I can’t express enough how this simple 15 minutes, one time a week, has the power to change and strengthen families. In these 15 minutes our children are learning important life skills like goal setting, forming good habits, problem-solving, and are taking a proactive role in strengthening our family.
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