As parents, we have one primary longstanding goal: to ensure our children feel loved. I can’t help but think of the love song More Than Words by Extreme. (I sang this tune 763 times as an 8th grader.) How do we build a strong family dynamic and SHOW our children we love them?
Hosting a weekly family meeting reminds your child they are loved and also an intricate member of something greater than themselves.
This is a tool you can alter and use throughout the years. This post is dedicated to the woman who introduced me to this concept; Patti is my Montessori mentor, a wonderful friend, and this blog’s namesake. Over coffee she recalled memories of the weekly family meetings her father ran throughout her childhood. She in turn ran family meetings with her two boys through their teens. Two generations of success convinced me to attempt this concept with my young daughters.
Below are 10 tips for hosting a successful family meeting:
- Start now—Right now your children want to interact with you. Take advantage of their eagerness. Make family meetings just something “your family does” each week so when your kids hit their tweens you have an open line of communication.
- Be consistent—Pick a specific day of the week and stick to it. This will help ensure you continue with this important exercise on a regular basis.
- Rules of order—Consider using Robert’s Rules of Order. Ok, I admit when Patti mentioned this I thought it was over the top. However, children often respond well to structure. Using this strict set of meeting rules will give your family meeting an official feeling. We use our own unique combination of this collection of guidelines (PDF). It has been an intricate part our experience.
- Let your child be president—When we hold our meetings we have a president, vice president, treasurer and secretary. The first few meetings my husband and I played the role of the president so the girls could learn how to run the session. After a few weeks, switch things up and let your child be president. You’ll be surprised how quickly children pick up routines. I promise your little one will take the responsibility very seriously.
- Conch shell—Stop family members from talking over one another by requiring the designated speaker to hold a physical item. Find something you’d like to use each week or get creative. We’ve used simple things like a stuffed animal and a salt shaker in the past. This helps children (and parents) practice waiting their turn to speak.
- Listen—Robert’s Rules of Order and a conch shell approach will ensure everyone has a voice, but show your child you are listening and hear their concerns when they speak. Give them non-verbal cues like smiles and nods. When they are finished speaking offer comments like, “Interesting idea. What do you think of [additional idea or alternative approach]?”
- Family Fund—Consider having a family fund. You can populate this with a weekly allowance or through chores. There are 101 different ways to approach it. However, be sure to cover the amount and possible ways to spend the fund as part of your family meeting.
- Keep it short—Keep your child’s age and attention span in mind. Try to keep your meeting between ten to forty-five minutes tops to ensure good participation and manners.
- Take it on the road—This approach works great around the family dinner table or out on the town. We’ve held our family meetings at Starbucks, at local restaurants, and out on the patio.
- End it sweet—Always end the meeting on a positive note. We usually follow our family meeting with a game or two. A jaunt to the ice-cream stand never hurt anyone!
Question of the Day:
This is an ongoing experiment in our house. I’d love to hear how you’ve been approaching family meetings. What other tips, suggestions or ideas would you recommend to people starting out this beneficial practice? Let’s all chat in the comments.