How we resolve family battles.
Cattle herding is probably easier than calling together a family meeting in most homes.
Tonight with everyone in the living room I said, “Okay. We are trying something here. Right now.”
Before people could run for corners to hide in and hope I didn’t notice, I pulled out a piece of paper and said, “So what did you like about this week?” “What do you think our family did together really well?”
I get answers like:
“We got along pretty well.” “We got more sleep than last week.” “We supported Dad when we went to his work.” “Miriam helped Grace with Gallon Man for school.” “We got our homework done pretty quick.” “Dad and Emmett went running.”
Next I asked, “What would you like to see us improve on?” (Questions from the book: The Secrets of Happy Families by Bruce Feiler)
Now, this opens up a whole can of worms. It’s meant to open up a can of worms. Everyone gets to say anything they want to say. No one gets to give their defense and no one gets to shoot down another person’s idea. I write each thought down, no matter what is shared.
Suggestions like these are given:
“More protein in our breakfast.” “I want to get to school sooner for Summit.” “Dad needs to stop getting on our case about the fireplace.” “We need more focus during homework time.” “We should get a flat screen tv.” “We need a new showering schedule. People are taking all the hot water.” “We need to eat more healthy.” “Grace needs to chill out on the burping.” “I don’t like it when people interrupt.”
Once everyone has gotten to say what they think needs to be improved, we vote as a family on which item we are going to work on for the week. Surprisingly, oftentimes the person who voiced the suggestion doesn’t even vote for their own idea. Hearing and sharing what people have been bothered by puts into perspective what is really important to each person and to our family as a whole. Even during the week now, the different family members will say, “I’m sharing this in the family meeting.”
What we’ve loved is the chance to hear what is important to our kids. There have been some suggestions like, “We should all eat breakfast together.” and “We would like to have scriptures as a family before school. It would help our day a lot.” (I’m not kidding. Totally their ideas.) During the school year when this was suggested, Emmett was getting up before everyone else, eating breakfast and heading to seminary. The girls would eat later just before they went to school and then Mike and I would eat before Mike went to work. We were eating in shifts.
Once the kids made these to suggestions for improvement (and these two items tied for the win) we asked the kids how we could make both things happen. As a family we decided that we would all get up at 6:15am to have scriptures at the breakfast table.
WOW! It was amazing. Some mornings we had incredible discussions all before 7am.
What I’ve learned from family meetings:
*Everyone loves to know that they’ve been heard.
*As parents, we like knowing that each person has a safe place to share any grievenses*.
*Kids come up with very surprising things that they want out of family life and their own life.
*People can actually get excited about a family meeting.
*Our family has improved in surprising and wonderful ways.
*Major discussions have happened during our family meetings
*Relationships have been healed that were unknowingly damaged during the week.
*It’s fun to create a family meeting time that is your own*.
*Our family is more thoughtful and aware during the week.
*Some meetings are a loss; others are incredible. From week to week we don’t know what’s going to happen. That’s ok.
*We keep having our meetings no matter what. They are making a difference.
How our meetings go (the cliff’s notes version):
1. We pray.
2. We ask, “What went well this week for our family? What we were good at?”
3. I write down everything that family members say.
4. We ask, “What would you like to see improved in our family?
5. I write down what everyone says.
6. I read off the list and tell people they get to vote for three things.
7. Everyone votes.
8. The item with the most votes is the one we discuss.
9. We ask, “How do we want to make sure that we are all at breakfast each morning?”
10. We listen to ideas until we come up with a plan we all agree on.
11. Pray over what we agree to do together.
It’s important to keep these meetings as short as possible. We like to have a 20 minute meetings. Some are shorter and some are longer but 20 minutes is what we average. We hold our meetings on Sunday afternoons at about 4pm. It’s a common time that everyone is usually home and no one is laying on the floor complaining about how tired they are or that they may die of hunger.
I’ve been pretty blown away at how much impact this 20 minutes has had on our week. We love it!
Ideas for how you may want to adapt this to your family:
*Choose a different night of the week that feels like a natural time when your family is usually home
*Find a way to make it extra fun: announce a dance party to start it off, have a witch laugh contest, throw socks back and forth at each other
*Light a candle and play soft music to invite a cozy feeling to the room
*Start off with a tickle war, have a game of charades to share what went well this week
*For family members who are concerned about hurting someone’s feelings or not being respected for their ideas, ask everyone to write their ideas on a piece of paper and then draw them out of hat and announce them.
*One of the ways that this has become super fun(ny) for our family is because of my son, Emmett. He thinks the episode of Seinfeld “Festivus for the Rest of Us” is completely hilarious. When we started talking about how to improve our family he started calling it Festivus. And he announces each time, “I’ve got a problem with you people and now you’re going to hear about it!”
Calendaring for your family goes hand in hand with this meeting. I love them both together!
Please share in the comments what you do to adapt this idea to work for your family.
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Davina Fear is a family meetings convert after years of breaking out in hives at the very mention of them. Now she gets to be surprised at least once a week by the awesome things her kids suggest for their family.
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