Want to help your kids feel cared for, listened to, included?
And want to help them understand more what goes into running the family?
Welcome to the Annual Family General Meeting!
For many of you in the U.S., school is just starting up again (those of us in Canada are saner and we don’t go back until after Labour Day). And I don’t even think it’s a holiday for those from Australia/New Zealand at all!
But for most of us, the school year is starting up again, which makes it a great time of year to sit down with your kids and do some planning.
Talk about vacations, about extracurricular activities, about chores, about schedules, about any big decisions.
Yesterday on the podcast parenting coach Brett Ullman was talking about his awesome book Parenting: Navigating Everything. The book is a huge resource covering all that you need to build a close relationship with your kids as they’re growing up. I love Brett’s heart for helping parents build those relationships so that it becomes much easier to navigate the teen years, when kids can get into hot water.
One of the things that jumped out at me in his book, that was such a quick and practical thing any parent can put into practice right now–but can also have great dividends–is the idea of the Annual Family General Meeting. Brett explained it yesterday, and I encourage you to listen to the podcast. But I thought I’d write more about it here, too, for those of you who like to read!
The Benefits of Family Meetings
- Children are more likely to comply to household rules when they have a say in establishing them.
- When children feel heard and their contributions are valued, htey’re generally more co-operative.
- Family meetings are a type of team-building exercise that helps families bond and improves relationships.
- Meetings teach children critical problem-solving abilities; which research proves is an important life skill that contributes to a child’s resiliency.
- Your house will operate more smoothly as you solve family problems together rather than treating all issues as disciplinary in nature.
How do you run a family meeting?
- Pick a time and make sure everyone keeps that time free and that there’s an expectation this will happen.
- Decide on a family reward for finishing the family meeting and the planning–like kids choosing a restaurant, or going bowling, or some other fun activity
- Create an agenda and leave it on the fridge so that kids can add items to it (like “I want a dog!”)
- Stick to the agenda during the meeting and let everyone talk
- As much as possible, let the kids’ votes count as much as the adults’.
Here’s how Brett reports how family meetings benefited when it came to decisions about pets:
Five years ago, we made the major decision to give our kids the chance to get a dog. The kids had added this item to the meeting agenda for several years before everyone in the family agreed to do it!
This decision required everyone to be all-in. Ben was the first one willing to put in the work required, but both kids needed to understand that getting a dog would have lasting financial and practical impacts on the family. It would require them to walk the dog in all sorts of weather and clean up poop in the backyard.
My wife and I decided to see how they handled dog-sitting, to give us an idea of whether they understood the not-so-fun parts of having a dog. After they showed responsibility in dog-sitting, we were ready to vote yes at the next family meeting.
Bailey, our English bulldog, has been part of the family for many years now. Her care is divided between all of us without argument because we’ve all agreed to share in her care. However, at times we may notice that Bailey isnt’ getting walked and then we bring up the agreement. We find that the kids then step up, likely because they agreed to this arrangement in the first place; it wasn’t placed upon them.
And you can talk about ANYTHING at family meetings!
- Where are you going on your next vacation? What does our family schedule look like this year? How are we doing with chores?
- Is there a dynamic in the household that isn’t healthy? Are we starting to get lazy, spend too much time on screens, call each other names?
- Do we need to make some big decisions, like whether or not to choose a new church, decide to homeschool next year, decide to get a pet?
- Is the family going through a particularly tough financial time, so the kids need to understand and not complain if we don’t order pizza and go on a spending freeze?
- Are there certain meals that the kids particularly like and want more of? Are there certain ones they definitely don’t want to eat?
And so many more! And, of course, kids can add their own things to the agenda.
When can you start family meetings?
I would say when the kids have a concept of planning ahead. Likely the child would have to be at least five or six (and younger kids can still be there but perhaps not participate as much).
But the more that we give kids a chance to have input into the family, and the more opportunities you have to explain the WHY behind the way you do family, rather than just imposing from above, the more buy-in there is with kids.
Again, here’s Brett’s explanation of the family meeting:
What about trying an annual family meeting this weekend?
Talk to your kids as the school year starts. Get on the same page. Plan together. And use it as a way to bond together as a family and set new family traditions!
Take a look at Brett’s book Parenting: Navigating Everything for more great ideas to stay close with your kids!
Have you ever tried family meetings? How did they go? Any tips for us? Let’s talk in the comments!
Sheila Wray Gregoire
Founder of To Love, Honor and Vacuum
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