The long-term benefits of family meetings

Here Ian is shovelling snow, an excellent activity for a 20-something who lives at home. Adults who live at home can be expected to pitch in. Use family meetings to stay in contact, set expectations and encourage each other. Mutual respect is key to discipline for teens, tweens, school age and toddlers

Ian shovels snow -- when we had some last winter -- during a long visit. Family meetings are key to setting expectations and open communication with "kids" of all ages.

My son Ian, 27, left, has no health insurance. We’ve had several discussions about the merits of health insurance.

During his last visit home, he said calmly, “Mom, I don’t want to talk about health insurance any more. I have decided to pay later instead of paying before.”

I listened. I didn’t like it. I heeded his boundary, set respectfully. I was grateful that he told me, instead of calling his girlfriend and complaining, “My mother won’t get off my case about health insurance! I can’t wait to leave.”

I credit our tradition of family meetings for Ian’s ability to respectfully communicate his feelings to me.

When I ask parents to list the attributes they want their children to develop, the list usually looks like this. Happy. Have good friends. Good social skills. Have a good job. Good relationship with me. Confident, capable. Don’t abuse substances. Find work they enjoy. Good self-esteem. Live independently and not in my basement.

I guarantee that family meetings will provide the foundation for every one of those attributes. Family meetings are the most effective discipline method  for toddlers, school-age, tweens, teens and young adults.

Notice I didn’t say “speediest” or “easiest.” Discipline means to teach. Family  meetings teach children the skills, attitudes and attributes we want them to absorb and use for life.

Read the attached notes from a first Family meeting held by a single parent and her two daughters, ages 13 and 10. Their agenda is on the second page. They held the meeting at 8:30 am on a Sunday morning, the time the 13-year-old agreed to in advance.

Here’s what worked about their first family meeting.

  • Mom asked what time they wanted to hold the family meeting, and then followed through even though the 13-year-old was lying on the couch during the meeting. (Teens can’t been seen as too cooperative.)
  • Mom posted the agenda in advance, which gave the kids time to post items, such as “Star Wars symposium outfit for Johanna.”
  • Johanna also posted, “Spend more activities together.”
  • Mom didn’t overload the agenda with problems and demands. She started small.
  • Mom followed the format. Someone took notes to keep for posterity, (humor later on), and to record their agreements. They had a snack and family fun.

Two big wins: Johanna posted two items; the 13-year-old showed up. It’s easier to set up the habit of family meetings when kids are 3 to 12 years old.

Kids will want to come to the meetings when they have a turn to run the meetings, there’s a snack, and family fun. Fun is like a magnet for kids, and long-term family glue.

You can do it. Family meetings reap huge rewards forever. They are worth the time and effort. See my tip sheet on how to get started and read about them in my book “Raising Able.”

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Explore posts in the same categories: 20-somethings, Alfred Adler, boundaries, chores, connection, empowerment, Rudolf Dreikurs

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