Every Sunday we sit down to recap our week and look forward/plan the upcoming week. We are a team, and "teams" have meetings. This is a time where everyone gets on the same page. Here are my top 10 tips after years of family meetings:
1. Involve the whole family. The general idea of our family meetings is for our children to be involved. It gives them the opportunity to discuss what their weekly challenges are. We want to see them come up with solutions. Problem solve. Lead. Listen. I often walk away from our meetings and think they may actually be learning vital life skills.
2. Keep them on track. If you are just starting family meetings, keep the first few short and positive. I've witnessed meetings and patience go downhill fast. Try starting with just 5 minutes and work up to 15. You don't want your children or yourself to give up on future meetings.
3. Embrace the chaos. Remember, this is a meeting involving children. Be realistic and appreciate each other's opinions. This is a great time to teach your children how important it is to have an open mind. We do our best to make this enjoyable and focus on the positives. If we have problems to discuss or improvements to be made we keep these last on the agenda. If there's something that's been a problem more specific to one child we, of course, do this in private with that child.
4. Laugh... a lot. Our meetings get entirely goofy. The serious is typically short-lived and I think that's perfect for their ages (4-11). Know your audience. Unless necessary, don't take life so seriously.
5. Invite chocolate to the meeting. Chocolate is the positive incentive to not interrupt others, come up with good solutions, and encourage others. The chocolate sits in front of me and I hand it out to reenforce positive behavior.
6. Take note. Give everyone a small notebook for note-taking. This has become a good way for our children to write down and remember their goals/solutions. Mostly it's a place for doodling, and I adore that also. I use my notebook during the week to make a list of things I'd like to discuss.
7. Rotate who leads the meeting. I'll often give the leader Ideas on what to discuss. Sometimes I tell the leader they get to plan a special dessert to share. One time my daughter lead the entire meeting using silly accents. I quickly decided to save my notes for the following week because none of us could control our laughter.
8. Talk money. If you give allowance this could also be a good time to do this. My husband and I often discuss (very briefly) our budget if we have something coming up like a vacation or a household project. This is simply a quick "act" by us because we believe it's important for them to hear that money maters need to be discussed. Many times we've witnessed them immediately model this behavior.
9. Play the role of Oprah. Ask important questions to start the conversation. One of my favorites: how have we helped others/ plan to help others?
10. End on a positive note. End the meeting with something fun. Our meetings are mostly on Sunday afternoons so we end with a bike ride, a walk or swimming.
I'd love to hear what makes your family meetings special. A friend just told me they do role playing in their family meetings. Love this idea, and I'd love more tips on keeping our meetings meaningful.