Keeping in mind that mistakes are wonderful opportunities to learn, the biggest mistake parents made that kept the meetings from coming closer to perfection was talking too much. Children are not thrilled about family meetings that provide another platform for parents to lecture. Parents need to talk less and listen more. Yes, I know how difficult this is—I’m still working on it. Somehow we parents think we aren’t doing our jobs unless we are talking, talking, talking.
Family meetings are one of the most important tools parents can use to teach children so many valuable social and life skills such as:
- Listening skills
- Brainstorming skills
- Problem-solving skills
- Mutual respect
- The value of cooling off before solving a problem. (Problems are put on the family meeting agenda so a cooling off period takes place before focusing on solutions to the challenge.)
- Concern for others
- Accountability in a safe environment. (People don’t worry about admitting mistakes when they know they will be supported to find solutions instead of experiencing blame, shame, or pain.)
- How to choose solutions that are respectful to everyone concerned
- A sense of belonging and significance
- Social interest
- That mistakes are wonderful opportunities to learn
- Having fun together as a family
- Avoid power struggles by respectfully sharing control
- Avoid micromanaging children, so children learn self-discipline
- Listen in ways that invite children to listen
- Respectfully share responsibility
- Create good memories through a family tradition
- Model all of the skills they want their children to learn
Where else can you get so much for such a small investment in time? Family meetings provide a wonderful family tradition that may carry on for generations.
It is most effective to have family meetings once a week and to stick to the allotted time of 20 to 30 minutes—even if everything on the agenda has not been covered. This will help your children learn "delayed gratification." Also, it gives them time to absorb what was discussed during the meeting, to try the agreed upon solution, and to practice working things out for themselves in between meetings.
My children loved family meetings when they were four to twelve or so. Then they started complaining, as typical teens do, about how stupid family meetings were. I asked them to humor me, and that we could shorten the time from 30 minutes to 15.
One day Mary, one of the complainers, spent the night at a friend’s house. The next day she announced, “That family is so screwed up. They should be having family meetings.” When Mary went off to college, she initiated regular “family meetings” with her roommates and said they would not have survived without them.
If you need help getting your Family Meetings started, consider getting the Family Meeting Album. This download product provides a step-by-step process for starting and organizing family meetings. A family meeting album can be as much fun as a photo album. You and your family will chuckle as you look back at past challenges you solved together. You will enjoy looking at your family mottos, gratitude pages, mistakes you learned from, problems you solved, fun things you did together, and meals you planned. This album is designed so you can insert a photo of YOUR family to create your own Family Meeting Album. You can print out many of the pages over and over to use each week.