Sitting at the table on a Sunday evening I watched as my three kids worked out a pretty big squabble they had had earlier that week. They were listening attentively to each other and figuring things out with very little help.
If you have more than one kid then you know that siblings don’t always get along…so, this was seriously a wonderful moment. A moment that I can honestly say was not a fluke or one-off moment either. Before you click away thinking we are some kind of perfect people, let me assure you that isn’t the case. It’s actually better than that.
Since my first son was just three years old we have been using a special parenting tool, quite possibly the best parenting tool we ever tried, to create connection filled moments like that Sunday eve. It’s a parenting tool that can help families to solve many challenges. It’s also a tool that can helps us all communicate better and listen to one another. It’s a tool that works whatever the kids need to tell us, both big problems and little things.
I’d love to say that every time there is a squabble or conflict around here we slow down and connect heart to heart to solve it. But with five of us, that’s just impossible! When we can, we do time-ins, use calm down tools and talk about needs and feelings. Sometimes though, there just isn’t enough time (or patience) to have meaningful, connected conversations in the heat of conflicts. Sometimes it’s better, kinder and more respectful to wait until the time is right.
This tool has showed me over and over again that learning is not lost by waiting. Delaying important conversations until everyone is calm, means we all listen. We solve problems instead of reaching for consequences and truly connect before trying to teach or guide.
Children learn so much better when they are feeling well, relaxed and connected to us. And children delight in having someone that will listen to the little and big things in their life.
That is why, if I had to pick just one parenting tool from my toolbox that can help kids learn how to deal with life’s problems, Family Meetings would be the tool to pick.
Remember that Sunday evening when my kids were figuring stuff out? We were in the middle of our family meeting. We had been discussing how our three kids might stop arguing with each other about caring for our new puppy. It may sounds like nothing but with three kids, even cute puppies can turn into a reason for arguing…and these are the kinds of discussions that are just perfect for family meetings.
How Family Meetings Work
Our main goal for meetings is to work together as a family. During the meeting each family member gets to share ideas, potential solutions and present their side of whatever issue is getting discussed. Everyone gets a chance to be part of the solution. And for the meetings to run well, the kids get to do a lot decision making – which, of course, they absolutely love. This is also a great way for kids to develop critical thinking skills.
Family meetings are also very effective because when children are part of the solution, they are much more likely to follow through and take their responsibilities seriously.
Beyond that, family meetings are a truly special way for families to bond and share happy moments. During family meeting you can set aside time to exchange appreciations and compliments for the whole family. These can sound like “I appreciate you coming to the grocery store with me, I had fun chatting with you about that minecraft mod.” or “Thanks Dad for making waffles for breakfast, they were delicious!” or “Thanks bro for leaving the room to fart when we were playing Lego. I didn’t want the stink by me and you respected that. You are cool.” (That last one may or may not have been said during one or our meetings but please don’t tell my kids I told you about that!)
Stinky issues aside, having a family meeting once a week for the last seven years has been a really wonderful, connecting experience for our family. It has helped me, as a mom, find more effective ways of dealing with conflicts and challenges. It has also given me reason to pause each Sunday to deliberately listen to, look at and appreciate my family. And the children sense that. They see that my husband and I love and care about them.
“Listen earnestly to anything [your children] want to tell you, no matter what. If you don’t listen eagerly to the little stuff when they are little, they won’t tell you the big stuff when they are big, because to them all of it has always been big stuff.”
― Catherine M. Wallace
Family meetings are a tool from the the Positive Discipline series by Jane Nelsen, D.Ed. If you would like to know more about starting up your own family meetings be sure to check out this great printable, A Quick Guide to Family Meetings.
About Ariadne: Ariadne Brill is the mother to three children. She is a certified Positive Discipline Parenting Educator and has graduate training in child development and family counseling. Ariadne is also the founder of the Positive Parenting Connection and the author of Twelve Alternatives to Time Out: Connected Discipline Tools for Raising Cooperative Children. You can also connect with Ariadne on Facebook.
Check out another of Ariadne’s great posts – Positive Discipline When a Child Breaks the Rules and Doesn’t Listen.