We are that dorky family that does family meetings.
And I am ok with it because sometimes cool things happen when you do dorky things like have family meetings, or keep a lot of lists, or wear matching tracksuits as your husband when you are in your senior years! SOMETIMES!
We don’t do them at regular intervals – we do them about monthly. And we don’t call them family meetings, we call them Team Meetings. Does that name change help? Probably. Does having good snacks help more? Absolutely.
But tricking our kids into a family meeting was pretty easy. Really the hard work is on us to keep making it happen. And the thing is we want to keep making it happen because we see that they have benefits.
A while back I was reading the Secrets of Happy Families: Improve Your Mornings, Rethink Family Dinner, Fight Smarter, Go Out and Play, and Much More. This book was a great read. It was full of the strategies and mindsets to operate family life with. Kinda like putting a corporate feel to operating as a family – it covered money, fighting smarter, family dinners and conflict resolution.
One of the recommendations in the book was a family meeting. We took the outline from the book for the family meeting and put it into play in our own home.
So our family meetings look like this:
(there is a snack, something good to eat. Preferably donuts but corn chips and licorice work too.)
I or Conor say, ‘hey let’s have a team meeting’….and I get out my book. Yup, I’m a note taker (or as I like to say, with all the 90s R&B emotion, ‘I’m Notey By Nature’. I will never give up on this joke. Never).
We have a drum roll and start.
We cover these things:
What is happening
We run through the calendar for the week and talk about what is happening and give the kid’s a heads up on anything that may be new for them. They usually ask a bunch of questions to make sure their needs are covered (rides to places, candy supply, favourite shoes, friends over).
What is working well
Everyone shares ideas on things they see that are going well in our family. Sometimes Nena just says ‘love’ or ‘hug’ but they often surprise us with something they are seeing that we aren’t. We also get little insights into the things that they appreciate like playing uno, or something they feel that they have been working hard on like keeping the basement clean or being nice to their sister.
What is not working well
I think this is why I avoided family meetings for so long. In my limited experience with them, they were only focussed on this one question – what is wrong. So we try to be quick here, not pointing blame or shaming, just sharing ideas on things we want to work on and make better.
I never had goals until I was in my late 20s. It wasn’t an approach I thought about or a skill I learned. I would like to give my kids the opportunity to learn this skill and set their future selves up for a life they have planned instead of a life that just happened.
I want them to see they have the ability to create their future. So we each set a goal we will work on. There isn’t pressure here to #makeithappen. We just let them throw out their idea and let that sit with them until they learn more skills to help them with their own self-motivated follow through.
Some of the kids’ goals they have had include: making a new friend, learning about beavers, washing hands after using the bathroom.
We also open up the goals part with a follow up on how our last goal went. (Man, aren’t you glad you are writing this all down in your nerdy notebook?) Sometimes they goals work, sometimes they don’t. It’s all a good learning experience.
This is my favourite part. We give the kids awards for something we noticed in them recently. The award is a word. We give them a word and explain why we picked it. Then we write it on their hands.
Only one kid tries to wash it off right away. But I hope it serves as a reminder of who they are and the great things about them that the world can see.
If we did only one thing, I would have it be this. It is so precious to me.
The meeting lasts about 10-15 minutes and it includes breaks for kids to run around the table, and sometimes the youngest one just wanders away and we continue on. We try to keep it fun and voluntary so they will keep doing it for years to come.
What we have seen from them
The roles our kids take on
I was quite amazed at how my oldest took to these Team Meetings. He loves them, he asks for them. He is very into them because I think they speak to the planning and organizing side of him. He likes to have a to-do list from the meeting and review it with me. I can’t relate to being a child who loves this stuff, but he does and I’m happy to help him grow in that.
My daughter has taken on the role of decorating for the meetings, setting out pictures and snacks. She creates a safe and creative space for these meetings to happen. She also has ideas on games we can play to incorporate into the meeting. For instance, she once had us all ‘draw out’ our goals for that week. #idied
The 4-year-old is still showing us what role he assumes in these meetings. Unless saying ‘fart’ and interrupting with song and dance is a role you can have. Maybe he’s the comic relief.
Everyone has a voice
When we have a team meeting, everyone’s opinion is equal and everyone’s thoughts and ideas count. When negative points are brought up we all brainstorm solutions to help work through it. I hope it is empowering them to see that they are part of the picture. They have ideas and responsibilities that support everyone in their home. They get to have a say in their family experience just as much as we, as their parents, do.
We flow better
When we can all get on the same page about what is happening we flow better. It is kind of like having Weekly Calendar Meetings with your spouse. It isn’t the interesting or exciting stuff of being a family. It is the business side. But once you TCB you get more time to just play and relax. Making it worth it, in my opinion.
Awareness and Change
The biggest change I have seen is in how my kids are treating one another. I love that in the Secrets of Happy Families book it points out that “siblings between the ages of 3-7 will quarrel 3.5x per hour and only resolve it 1 out of 8 times” THAT NEWS IS LIFE TO ME! It takes off so much pressure! And when we get around for a team meeting, I see my kids suddenly assessing themselves and their behaviour and saying ‘I want to be nicer’ and then later reporting back ‘I am being nicer’. IT WORKS! And it wasn’t because of my nagging and frustration. It was because we gave them official space to reflect and assess themselves.
I’ve never been on any sports teams….but I have been in musical theatre (pretend you are surprised). I’m sure that team meetings with sports teams help solidify that team mentality the same way a family meeting does. It does make us feel like more of a team, it provides a certain level of security and tradition. It adds a little formal sense that we are all in this together and we are here to support each other in the special roles each of us have.
We end each meeting with a little corny team cheer that I will make them do until their eyes have rolled into the backs of their heads and years beyond that. Because we are a team and it is what we do!