Well run Family Meetings improve communication, let every voice be heard, save time, ease decision making, and are far too rare.
Every time I talked about family meetings at workshops or with parents seeking help, three responses predominated. Some parents said:
“Tried that. Didn’t work. No way I’m trying again.”
“Go to too many meetings at my job; all a waste of time.”
The third response would be a facial expression screaming “No, no.”
If I was lucky enough to get a family to talk about why their family meetings failed, the answers were pretty much the same:
“Too much complaining, too much whining, too much venting.”
“Took too long to get everyone to agree.”
“The kids sat silently and later complained we were first class dictators.”
I don’t blame the parents for failing; I blame the parent advice experts. Some of the advice mirrors my own: set an agenda, use go-round discussions, build fun into the process, have opening and closing rituals. Good advice.
However, is a sample of advice that made me screech like someone stepped on a sore toe; it is from an article in Parenting Magazine:
The best approach to planning family meetings is probably to set up the expectation that the whole family will meet to try to make decisions and solve problems together.
Hog wash, humbug and a set up for dissent and difficulty. Mostly a plea for democracy. However, democracy works when there are strong, caring leaders who know what needs to happen, who know what is possible, and who don’t let the kids vote until they are at least eighteen and in many places, twenty-one.
Contrary to popular opinion as reflected in most of the parenting advice floating around, a family run as a democracy does not work. Let me repeat that: A family run as a democracy does not work.
Families work best when parents take on the role of benign dictators. Be very clear, I am talking about benign dictatorships not the ones invested in getting the trains to run on time and the masses bowing or saluting un-elected and cruel leaders.
Here are my tips for becoming a benign family meeting leader and having half a chance of running a successful family meetings:
1. Repeat and believe the following mantra. For two parent families: “Us, our house, our wallet, our rules.” For a single parent home: “Me, my house, my wallet, my rules.
2. Do not work to keep everyone happy, allow everyone to vent, or allow full participation in the problem solving process. Your job as a parent is to pay the bills, assure children kept safe and properly cared for, not to assure happiness.
3. Make the rules and punishments are clear, fair, just, realistic, and work for the betterment of all, are
4. Allows a few decisions to be reached by consensus or vote, but do so carefully, and if dissent arises, exercise the benign dictator’s right to rule.
5. Do not allow pop-corning. Pop-corning lets participants speak at random. Instead use the go-round facilitation style. The facilitator asks the questions or poses a comment for discussion at the start of each go-round; the others respond one by one. As each person responds, the facilitator merely nods or say “Thank you.”
If during a go-round someone speaks rudely, speaks about another person’s view instead of their own, the facilitator says “Please stay on topic, and repeats the question or item for discussion.
A Reality Check: If you have been following the “Siblings Without Rivalry,” soft love ideas that parents are responsible for their child’s feelings and happiness becoming a benign dictator model will not be easy.
Moreover, the kids will protest. Wouldn’t you if someone instead of focusing exclusively on your happiness, started to tell you a variation of “Suck it up, Buttercup”.
What to do? Announce the change in parenting styles. Reframe it as the next step to adulthood. Say something like this:
“You are at the age, when you need to learn what it means to be an adult and that means attending and participating in meetings like a grown up. We are going to have Family Meeting and I am going to run them like a hard-nosed boss.
Second reality check: If your parenting style has been that of Marine Commander ala The Great Santini, meaning you either don’t have family meetings or use them to issue edicts to your sullen or frightened subjects. You will need to reverse tactics and follow the more usual advice of letting your subjects make more decisions, and giving them more rewards. Your mantra needs to be “Their life, their needs.”
Final reality check: Expect stress whether this is your first attempt to hold a family meeting or a renewed attempt. If switching parent styles is part of the process that will add more stress. Here’s an introduction to EFT’s Self-soothing skills. So a tip or two about dealing with that stress.
Tip one: Keep your expectations realistic. Hold six meetings and then figure out if they are working. If working, take everyone out for ice cream or to the movies as a reward. If not working, think about having a parent coach come and help get things on track be possible?
Tip two: Work to improve your self-soothing skills. Practice my Daily Twelve Emotional Fitness Exercises. Here’s an introductory link. For more on self-soothing, consider buying my eBook, Self-soothing To Create Peace In Your LIfe. It costs less than a latte and lasts longer.
Tip three: If all family times are mad or sad times, consider seeking a competent professional consultation.
Thank you for all you do
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Stay strong, it takes some effort for life can be a painful struggle.
Post Inspiration: This post was not inspired by the WordPress Daily Prompt: Clean.
Go here to learn more about the Daily Prompts.
Links of Interest
These links are for those not familiar with Emotional Intelligence or the idea of Emotional Fitness.
Disclaimer two: Take all advice even mine, carefully. Don’t just listen to your heart, but also think; don’t just think, listen to your heart. Heart and head working together increase the odds you will find useful advice amid all the promises and hopes pushed at you be others. As others have noted, take what seems useful, leave the rest.
Disclaimer two: Forgive my grammatical errors
If you need perfect posts, you will not find them here; I will understand if you don’t follow, like or share what like me. Not only am I dealing with an aging brain, but all of my life I have been plagued by dysgraphia–a learning disability, Some of my posts might be peppered with bad spelling, poor punctuation, and worse words that make no sense. If you want to hang in with me, thank you; you are kind. If a post doesn’t make sense or bugs you too much, stop reading, I will understand.