Earlier this week, Jeff and I were heading home from a road trip out west. We were frustrated by the lack of coping skills our three children showed when dealing with disappointment. During the final 400 miles, we analyzed our kids and all the conditions that lead to their emotional state. We ultimately saw that our kids often act like we do, so Jeff and I talked about ourselves and the way we deal with our own emotions. That discussion led to the idea of starting family meetings.
If you read Part 1, you’ll know that after dinner on Sunday Jeff and I put together a family meeting planner made up of 4 categories: Family Expectations, Family Responsibilities, Family Needs, and Family Feelings. Here’s a copy of the Family Meeting Planner I created. We also decided on some how-to’s for our family meetings to be effective and successful.
Jeff and I established the ground rules that our family would use when in our meetings. Since they range in age from 4-9, we wanted to use some visual cues to help the kids remember them. The ground rules are easy, even for a 4 year old: 1) Everyone listens (touch ears), 2) Everyone speaks (touch mouth), and 3) Everyone acts respectfully (touch shoulders).
It was time to call our meeting to order! Upon their arrival, we thanked them for attending the family meeting and explained that everyone would get a chance to talk. We also discussed what ground rules are and why they are important. The kids actually understood, we were already on the right track! We shared our Family Meeting Ground Rules with the visual cues with our three monkeys.
They repeated them back to us and we then shared that we would be using a “talking stick” during our meetings. For our talking stick, we used a magic wand that our 4 year old made at a birthday party. The talking stick allows for each person to speak when they have it and to listen when they don’t. It’s handy to use with younger children such as ours, and it’s also very comical. Our 4 year old really loved that her siblings had to listen to her when she had the talking stick and she sure didn’t like it when my husband or I tried to paraphrase her thoughts. At different times in the meeting we all got shushed and told we didn’t have the talking stick, and therefore it wasn’t our turn… understood my dear, understood! But, I am getting ahead of myself. We officially called the meeting to order!
We felt it was important for everyone to take part in formulating our family expectations, which is why it was up first on our agenda. They politely passed the talking stick around the circle and everyone shared very intelligent and thoughtful ideas related to what they felt were our family expectations.There was no idea left off the list since all ideas were good ideas! They listed off 23 expectations and although I’d love for them to focus on all of them, it’s impossible. We’ll focus on a few a week and then check in at the next meeting. Here are a few of my favorite family expectations:
- be problem solvers, not problem makers
- be loveness (no, not a typo)
- always listen
- play nicely with others
- be aggressive when playing a sport
- stop if someones says “stop”
- put forth excellent effort
To get us talking about responsibilities around the house, we used an age-appropriate chores for kids list. It’s a pretty complete list and our kids didn’t think anything was too difficult. I am happy to hear that they want to make simple meals, clean the microwave, and put away their own laundry. Score for me!! You can find the age-appropriate chore list here. We also added a few things to it, like:
- clean up after our pet
- keep school bags ready
- take care of the garden
- sort school papers
- walk our pet (with supervision)
Our intentions are to create a schedule that is both easy for us to manage and the kids to follow. There are lots of ideas on Pinterest, so we’ll see what works!
The next part of our meeting went a lot quicker, but it was nonetheless important. Each of us got to share a need we feel our family has for the week. Some thought it would be good to reset some limits now that we are home; such as reestablishing good sleep habits, limiting screen time, and allowing for some down or quiet time in the day. One of our kids wants to make sure that we go to the pool this week as a family. These are all good ideas and true needs of our family, so we were pleasantly surprised by their understanding of the concept!
The final component of our meeting was to share any feelings anyone had from the week. Only our 9 year old really understood what that meant. I am not surprised, she is very introspective and empathetic. This allowed us to have a really good conversation regarding the idea that this family meeting was a good and safe place to get out any yucky feelings and work as a family to resolve them. I am sure that they’ll get the hang of it soon enough and that it will become the most important part of our family meetings!
Before we adjorned the meeting, we thanked them for their willingness to participate and for all the thoughtful ideas they shared. Jeff and I were truly blown away by what they had to say. The power of the “talking stick” was amazing and the kids really followed the ground rules. Our monkeys really ARE good kids, they just have ugly moments sometimes.
Which brings me to my final thoughts. Jeff and I weren’t sure how this family meeting would go. We weren’t sure if they’d be into it or hate it. That fear didn’t keep us from trying it, it turns out that they loved the family meeting. So, I plead with you that even if you aren’t sure about something do it anyway! My husband always says, “Don’t try, just do” when the kids give us the excuse, “I’m trying” in their best whiney voice. (I wish that whine was paired with cheese, grapes, and was chilled in the fridge first, but beggars can’t be choosers, right!?!?) The truth is that we don’t know if these meetings will make our family stronger or better communicators, but we sure hope they do. And if nothing else, at least we did it.
So, with or without the whine, but preferably with the wine, JUST DO! Whatever IT is, go out and make it happen. And if it fails, oh well! Find the lesson, it’s in there. Then BE INSPIRED to do something different or look back at the BEAUTIFUL MESS that you have made and REVEL in it!
There are no happy accidents~