This is probably my favorite part of Positive Discipline. Ok, it’s everyone’s favorite part of Positive Discipline! Weekly family meetings seem hokey, I know. I think there are two things that come to mind about family meetings, especially weekly family meetings. The first is, who has time for this? With all the responsibilities and activities between parents and kids, setting aside a time once a week where all family members (starting at the age of 4, but I think preschoolers would benefit from it too) are focusing on each other seems far fetched. The second is how dorky it is, or that it is unnecessary. I felt that these meetings were unnecessary because I assumed the reason for them was to encourage communication and a sense of belonging and I was sure our family already had that. We decided to really try Positive Discipline a couple of years ago though, and that meant family meetings too. After the very first one, we understood the significance of them.
In our family, we tried Sunday after dinner but found Saturday before game night works better. Some families do it during or after Sunday brunch or Friday night movie night or otherwise include it with a family tradition, so it becomes part of the tradition and not a chore. We love to play some kind of game together on Saturday nights, and since Saturday is usually open, if one of us is going out with friends we can just start a little earlier and not have to skip that night.
The basic outline for a family meeting is this:
*brainstorm for solutions
*choose a solution to try
*Menu (we added this)
Opening the meetings with compliments is a riot. We always go youngest to oldest, and each person has to compliment in that order as well. So Daphne will go first and tell her older sister, I think it’s really great that you have been getting up earlier this week and then to her brother, you did a great job getting As on your report card, and then to me something like, I really liked dinner tonight and then almost always tells her father, ‘…and Dad, I really like your beard.’ Haha, it is so cute to see them all thinking up different things to say to each other, and also really fun to see them enjoying it being their turn!
The ‘agenda’ portion of the meeting is when you address all the random things that have come up during the week, challenges that need resolving. This is great during the week, because when someone comes to you with a situation you can’t stop and fix in that moment, you can say, ‘let’s add it to the agenda for the family meeting and we can all help you figure it out’. This can be used for requests for special trips, help rearranging something in their room, time management, and other things like that. So, for example, one of the chores our youngest had to do before we moved was to clean the large window in her bedroom. She couldn’t reach the whole thing and that was an issue she added to our agenda that week. It would have been really easy for me to just say that I’d do the top part, or assign someone else to help with the top part, or just switch out washing the window with an easier chore and solve the problem myself in 30 seconds. Part of adding it to the agenda is to teach patience (and also to teach that some things need to be shelved until a better time to focus on them). The reason we all brainstorm a solution is to both see all the options we have available to us, and to include everyone in the situation. In this case, it would be easy to blow it off as no big deal, but having everyone brainstorm and try to come up with different ideas to help her solve her problem accomplishes two big goals. It helps her to feel that her problem is validated, because to her it is a big problem and that we all care so much about solving it with her. It also helps the other kids to both feel included in a family problem and helps them to feel validated as well, because we write down all the different ideas. Then, the child with the problem chooses a solution to try out that week and then next week, we’ll talk about how it went. In the case of the window washing, some suggestions were for her to use a squeegee with a long handle, to use a step stool, to help one of her siblings with a chore and then have them help her reach the part of the window that was too high. She ended up going with the last option and it worked well for her until we moved and she didn’t have that window anymore!
The calendar is pretty self explanatory, you go over the calendar as a family and make sure everyone has a ride to and from where ever they are going, and everyone knows who is where to avoid confusion. Doctor appointments, testing, play dates, field trips, etc are all on the large kitchen calendar but not everyone looks at it, and some may look and notice events on it, but assume they are not part of them. This part of the meeting makes everyone involved in everyone else’s plans so any potential double bookings or forgotten events can be cleared up.
We added menu planning to our weekly meetings because even though I have done menu planning for years and ask for input from everyone when I do it, having the ideas for the week in the family meeting notebook is very handy. We also bounce ideas off each other this way and while everyone had a say before, this way they know what others have suggested and will not go with things that are very similar. Whatever additional thing you family may want to add to the meeting can be added here.
Family fun is whatever you want it to be. Some families do movie night, some do board games, whatever it is you do to end the meeting, make it fun! We almost always do a game of some kind, usually Headbandz or one of the Monopolies we have, and sometimes it’s a whole lot of Minecraft.
The purpose of the family meeting is to bring everyone together to have everyone aware and involved in what everyone else is doing, and to reconnect and have a little fun. Try it for a week or two and you’ll probably be looking forward to the next one!