Regular family meetings are an essential part of keeping everyone in a household on the same page, especially in a big or busy home. Here are four powerful benefits of holding family meetings and a step-by-step plan for how to have a successful one.
One of our three daughters had grown unusually testy. No matter how much my husband and I reached out, we couldn’t get to the bottom of what was bothering her. Since her behavior was affecting all of us, we called for a family meeting.
In our living room-turned-conference room, my husband and I addressed our concerns about the change in our daughter’s disposition. Then our other two daughters offered their insight. Finally, after much discussion and a few tears, we had a breakthrough. Our daughter reluctantly admitted she was dealing with mean-spirited girls at her high school and wasn’t sure how to respond to them.
With support and encouragement from her entire family, our daughter was able to see the problem from a different angle. Together, we strategized ways to deal with the girls at school and talked about how to be kind, yet assertive.
Over the years, as our daughters encountered issues that needed our attention, direction, and discipline, my husband and I assembled what we affectionately called a “family pow-wow.” Today our girls are grown with families of their own, and I’m confident some of their best parenting techniques were birthed in our family meetings.
WHY A FAMILY MEETING?
To reinforce family values, busy families must get creative. Family meetings allow us to proactively follow God’s command to “teach them [God’s ways] to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise” (Deuteronomy 11:19).
Instead of being in responsive mode, we can thoughtfully prepare ahead of time to address family issues in a teachable manner. With the use of biblical principles, the family meeting is a place where kids develop problem-solving skills, overcome challenges, and strengthen family ties.
THE IMPORTANCE OF A FAMILY MEETING
A family meeting can be considered an exercise in team-building, brainstorming, and strategizing. Working as a team, family members bond together as they develop and implement ideas to help the family unit grow stronger.
In a safe zone where people love and support them, children are more prone to work out conflicts, discuss issues, and brainstorm ideas. During family meetings, our daughters sometimes offered creative ideas and insights my husband and I hadn’t considered.
Family meetings are great for making decisions like vacation plans, family chores, or other issues that involve everyone. After all, our kids are more likely to buy into a decision if their voices have been heard. That doesn’t mean parents don’t have the final say, but allowing everyone to express an opinion or idea goes a long way toward getting kids to cooperate.
In a family meeting, there’s the unmistakable impression that we’re interdependent. In other words, issues that affect one family member affect the others. When everyone has an equal voice, predicaments like sibling rivalry may be resolved as a group more effectively than one-on-one.
PLANNING THE FAMILY MEETING
Depending on the family dynamic, family meetings may be held regularly or on an impromptu basis as needs arise.
REGULARLY SCHEDULED MEETINGS
For weekly or monthly meetings, plan ahead and have several topics on the agenda. (See suggestions below.) The use of structure will help make regular meetings feel productive and worthwhile.
Also, make sure to plan meetings at a time when nothing else is likely to get in the way. By frequently canceling them, we diminish their importance.
If at all possible, don’t combine the family meeting with a meal. That way the focus will stay on the issues at hand.
Keep an eye on the clock. Everyone will dread a family meeting that drags on. Especially with younger children, keep the meetings shorter rather than longer. For older kids, it’s helpful to stick to pre-planned ending times.
END ON A LIGHT NOTE
One way to keep the family meeting enjoyable is to end it with special snacks or a game. Although our family didn’t take this approach, it’s a great way to foster togetherness and leave on a positive note.
GROUND RULES FOR A FAMILY MEETING
• Everyone must be present and everyone must participate. No exceptions.
• Each family member is allowed time to speak uninterrupted. (For younger kids it may be helpful to use a sharing object so they have permission to talk only when the object is in their hand.)
• Be respectful of others’ feelings and ideas.
• Address issues, not people. Encourage family members to use “I” statements rather than “you” statements. Family meetings aren’t a time to scold or punish. That should be done at some other time.
• “What happens here stays here.” A family meeting is a safe zone, where issues that are discussed aren’t shared outside the family.
• No electronic devices, music, or television. All distractions should be minimized as much as possible.
• No long lectures. Stick to problem-solving.
• Keep conversations on topic.
• No arguing.
• Parents have the final say. Although everyone’s voice is heard and respected, in the end parents reserve the right to decide what’s best for everyone involved.
TOPIC SUGGESTIONS FOR WEEKLY MEETING
• New rules, challenges, or concerns
• Weekly calendar, with holiday events, sports, school events, and other happenings. (This is perfect for the husband who struggles to link his work calendar to the family calendar!)
• Chores and responsibilities
• Open discussion
• A light ending (something nice to say about the person next to you, a lowlight and highlight from the past week, conversation starters, or a favorite family game).
Successful family meetings don’t all look the same. Some are calm, while others are lively. Sometimes issues are resolved instantly, and at other times they’re painstakingly worked through over a matter of weeks, months, or even years. But when values are shared and everyone leaves feeling loved, heard, and appreciated, the family meeting has been a success!
25 INSIGHTFUL CONVERSATION STARTERS TO GET THE FAMILY TALKING
Need a few conversation prompts?
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