Family Meetings: A Little Goes A Long Way

Posted December 5, 2008 by

When I was first started as a parent blogger for EP, it was suggested that I look at parenting from a “Dad’s” point of view. Funny, in all the years I’ve been parenting, I never considered my point of view being other than just a parents’ viewpoint.You see, for a period of five and one half years, I was a single parent of three children, Frank III, Louis (Lou), and Dominica (Mini). When I became a full-time single parent, they were ten, eight, and seven.

I was working a very full-time job of 65 hours weekly. My responsibilities each week included grocery shopping, laundry, cooking, cleaning, and a myriad of other things including seasonal decorating and school projects. Staying connected to my children was accomplished by having them at my side during all of these activities, as well as creating the occasional family fun activity on the weekend. We would go apple, cherry, or strawberry picking. We would take in a high school football game, a little league game, or go fishing. We would shovel snow in the winter or gather leaves in the fall.

When they were not in school, I was very fortunate to have had a mother of two smaller children supervising them. Alice was grateful for the extra income and I was grateful for the consistent care she provided. We really helped each other in so many ways.

One of the rituals my kids and I had was our weekly Family Meeting.Our Family Meetings were a separate event that were set aside to purposely focus on the obligations of each family member. During this meeting, we coordinated all family activities for the coming week on our family calendar. We discussed rides, chores, and homework. It was also a time to recognize each person’s contribution to the success of the entire family. We were a team. Each person had an effect on another person’s life and the life of the family as a whole. This was a time when we acknowledged our dedication to assisting each other in achieving individual as well as family goals. We all wanted to know we belonged to something bigger than ourselves. We grew to understand that the Family, in its home environment, represented a place of safety and strength. We relied on each other.

Our meetings never lasted more than twenty minutes and were held on the same day and time. We closed our meetings with individual acknowledgments for thoughtful acts freely given during the previous week.

Funny how rituals become habits. Today, all my children use Family Meetings, and, even though my wife and I are empty-nested, we conduct our meetings like clockwork. It is one of our ways of staying connected.

Do you have family meetings at your house? What works for your family?

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Frank Brogni is a life coach and Parent Blogger for EP

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  1. Joan A. (Edit) Report

    Just as you said in your article about consequences that nothing will work if your child is simply into being contrary; I think that even family meetings will be impossible if one spouse commits but does not have the ability to slow things down and be an adult. I foresee a fiasco and major parental discord when I imagine having a family meetin with my spouse. He is incapable of standing up to the children; even insisting they are quiet and tuned in and not hurting eachother – it will quickly devolve into a yelling match and we will get nowhere. In some cases, doesn’t a parent need counseling to figure out why he can’t be an adult before you can really make headway together?

    Reply
  2. Frank Brogni (Edit) Report

    Hello Susie:
    Thanks for being on board with our blog. You brought up a great point that deserves to be explored.

    In my experience with young teens,(I raised five)it just seems that their knee jerk reaction to anything new in the family is usually negative. Sometimes I think it is in their DNA to go there first; however, most of the time they’re just testing your resolve to stick with it. A ritual by nature is repetitive and serves many purposes including the security of knowing certain things can be counted on. That’s another reason for the Family Meeting time and place to be set each week in advance. When the kids see that the repetitive event is a time for celebration and acknowledgement besides confirming committments for the coming week, it is hard to avoid an occasion that eliminates criticism and is an opportunity to learn stories about themselves and other members of their family.

    Look at the previous postings, notice that the moderator is chosen each week, so your daughter will have an opportunity to lead the family when her turn comes around, and, you will have an opportunity to acknowledge her for that leadership. The Family Meeting also becomes a great time to discuss the family’s stand on drugs, sex, and other topics that shape their character. Remember, this is discussion time, not lecture time. Listen for their wisdom and thought processes when they are willing to share.

    Finally, remember the goal, family unity. Make this a fun time for all.

    Reply
  3. Susie (Edit) Report

    Frank,

    I like your idea of the family meetings. It sounds like a wonderful way to get the family connected which is what I feel we need. However, I am a little apprehensive – I can just hear my early teen daughter complaining and overruling it because it is dorky and her not actually being a part of it. How do you suggest breaking the ice with this new ritual?

    Reply
  4. Elisabeth Wilkins, EP Editor (Edit) Report

    Frank, thank you so much for laying this out so clearly and eloquently. Inspired by this post, we had a family meeting last Sunday, and I have to say, it made this week go so much more smoothly! Less chaos, more fun. And I like the part about thanking each other for small kindnesses. You’re so right — a little does go a long way!

    Reply
  5. Dori (Edit) Report

    This is a wonderful article. We have family meetings…but not often enough. I think I will bring this up for the coming new year as a great way to be connected.

    =)

    Reply
  6. Frank Brogni (Edit) Report

    Hello Brad:
    Thank you for your interest in Family Meetings. The primary purpose of the FM is to create UNITY in the family, to focus on each persons part of the family community. The mechanics are as follows:

    1. Moderator declares the FM open by reading or declaring the Family Purpose Statement. It is your mission statement, created by you, the parent
    2. The Family calendar is placed on the table for all to see. Each person is asked what is on their schedule for the coming week. This is a great practice for a 6 and 9 year old. They feel important to be adding to the family calendar. For those with older kids it is a good idea to check in with them to cover for a brother or sister who will need help with chore while being at a special event.
    3. Pick a Family Value (Guiding Principle) you wish to teach and talk about it and ask your children to look for an example of values to share at the next FM. This could be honesty, love, integrity, setting boundries, health and others that you as their Father believe in and want to share with them –or
    4. Instead of that, tell a family story to them as a means of sharing the family history, ancestry, or wisdom with them. These stories will be with them for a lifetime and they will share them with your grandchildren.
    5. Acknowledgements are always part of the FM, most say the favorite part. What can be better than thanking one another for being or doing something that contributes value to another family member? End the meeting with hugs and other expressions of appreciation.

    Remember to keep this ritual to not more than 20 minutes as a means keeping everybody’s interest and have it at the same time of the week. You will know it is sinking in when the kids start reminding you it is time for the Brad Family Meeting:) Did that help?

    Reply
  7. Brad (Edit) Report

    Frank, I am a single father of a 6 and 9 year old and have been for 3 and a half years. I am intrigued by the family meeting idea, just unclear on the details. Can you give me a more detailed breakdown of what the family meeting entails. Thank You.

    Reply
  8. Frank Brogni (Edit) Report

    Annita:

    Thank you for your comments.
    Any opportunity for the family to be together is valuable in the eyes of your children. When the family officialy meets and each member gets to contribute, all feel heard, valued, and loved; especially, the kids. The family meeting could also be a good time to discuss family heritage (great for blended families), family guiding principles, or to create the next family outing.

    Reply
  9. Annita (Edit) Report

    Frank, I like your idea about family meetings. My husband and i have always talked with eachother on sunday night or sometimes on the phone on MOnday about our calendars. We sort of clue in on eachother’s work schedule, kids activities, and especially about nights when we need coverage with the kids so we can pursue our own interests (bookclub, sporting events, family events). We usually just talk over the din of the kids doing their own thing. What struck me as different in your idea, is that you also incorporate the “thank yous” from the week, the shining moments, the gratitude opp that reinforces good behaviors and positive self-esteem…love that! I also like that it gives the kids an opportunity to see what responsibilities the parents have beyond the walls of the home and it gives the kids the opp to speak up from their perspective, therby giving them the credit for the tough job they have of growing up in todays busy kind of family.

    Reply

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