Even before we’d heard it officially coined as such, my husband and I decided that with a family as large as ours, a family meeting would be a very good idea. It’s likely the thought popped up because things on the homefront had gotten
a little a lot out of control, and we knew that some sort of coming-together event would be needed to restore (or, rather, institute) order.
So, over the years, we’ve tried it. Oh, our intentions were so very good, but we lacked consistency and follow through. You can’t have one family meeting a year and expect things to run smoothly, I suppose. Problem is, we’d have one, and it would feel like the right thing to do at the time, but then something would interfere with the plan and we’d let it slip…and slip…and find ourselves desperate again for order.
You have to keep in mind, both my husband and I have an organization gene when it comes to certain aspects of our lives, but not all aspects. I, for example, am horrible about sticking to things like, well, sticker charts and the like. It always sounds like a brilliant idea initially, but I get distracted easily, and go with the flow too readily, and before I know it, I’m somewhere else entirely and the sticker chart is stuck between the wall and the fridge and has dust mites swarming it.
Well, in recent months I’ve attended two parenting sessions, and both have purported that the family meeting is one of the most helpful tools in encouraging better behavior within the household, and fostering harmonious family dynamics. So, having taken this all in, I’m ready to give it a try. As the most recent presenter, a parent coach, said, those of us who work outside the home are aware of how essential the staff meeting is in keeping a company running smoothly. Why, then, do we not give the same chance of success to our own families through getting the players together and making a plan?
And of course she’s right. And it shouldn’t take place during dinnertime. The family meeting serves a slightly different function than dinner conversation. It should be separated.
Well, I took up the suggestion of this parenting coach and last night, we had our “revised edition, first attempt” of what I hope to be the first of many family meetings. I wrote out invitations to all family members, telling them the time to arrive and location. Snacks were promised (it works every time) and a “talking stick” chosen. The one rule this first meeting was that unless you were holding the talking stick, you could not talk. As advised, we kept this first meeting light. We simply took turns telling why we love being a part of this family. Easy, right?
Not so much. It’s a pretty sad statement that most of the participants were not all that willing. Keep in mind their ages: 4, 6, 9, 11 and 13. Who wants to admit they love their family at those ages? The 6-year-old was sincere and sweet, the 4-year-old didn’t want to say anything because he didn’t understand what was going on and was more interested in the meat and cheese platter, the 13-year-old gave some kind of sarcastic response, the 11-year-old strained to come up with something then said the first thing that came out (not too deep, let me tell you), and the 9-year-old hemmed and hawed…and hawed and hemmed, then finally said what she thought we’d want to hear, I think.
Alright people, I get the message. We need a little help, a little encouragement here. And while I know it seems like a doomed scenario, I refuse to give up this time…not yet. We’re still newly into this, and I’m determined that as long as I keep providing snacks, the kids will keep showing up, and eventually they’ll get the concept and, perhaps, even have something nice to say and contribute. The key is to keep at it, because it’s their job as kids to complain and question and think it’s all very ridiculous. But just wait. I am going to keep reporting on this endeavor, and I am determined that in six months’ time, we are going to be seeing some improvements in our family dynamics.
It has to be. The parenting coach said so, and I’m choosing to believe her.
Who else out there has tried the family meeting? If you’re inclined, please divulge what worked, what didn’t, and what you think of the whole concept in general. I’ll be taking notes!