The Family Meeting

Our family has graduated to the chaotic stage where mom can no longer be the keeper of all the information. I simply cannot. Just last week, I sent my dad to pick up my child from school only to forget she had a club meeting after. That night he took her to basketball to show up to an empty gym because the practice was canceled due to conferences.  Then on Friday, I forgot that my other child had a field trip that we were supposed to drive to that day.  

Not my greatest week of parenting.  But you know that the real kicker is? I was not at all surprised it happened. Not in the least. So I decided we were going to start the dreaded family meetings.

I am a working mom. By working I mean that I work a normal job with six months of high stress, six months of normalcy.  For three to four months of the year, I coach a high school sports team. Eight months of the year, I lead a girl scout troop. A few times a year, I volunteer to head up our school’s spirit wear. Also, I started a business with my friend recently.  Oh yea, and once a month I blog.  That is just me. My husband works a job that often has late nights, bringing him home after bedtimes. 

My daughter has taken off this year in terms of interests in clubs and sports (not super surprised here… cue “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree” sayings) so balancing her activities has become a bit more of a challenge. Our son isn’t as involved (only one club and sports have yet to stick), but learning how to teach him self-motivation and awareness has become almost as involved as if he were in the equal amount of clubs. 

Given our lifestyle, a week of misses was in the cards.

Yet, who likes feeling the constant stress of messing the schedule up? After putting off family meetings for years, it was time to attempt them with a six and nine-year-old.  

By sheer luck, I was googling ideas for my daughter’s “give-back” birthday and stumbled upon this planner (click for link) for family meetings. What I love about it:

  • Acts of Kindness – This is imperative. We are entering the years of bickering and self-absorption.  Nine years old is rough, especially when books like “Dork Diaries” are what the kids base their personality off of. Coming off of some recent national tragedies, this issue is non-negotiable.
  • Something You’ll Work Hard On – I adore this. It isn’t just what the kids are doing, but what we are doing also. It shows them no matter how old you are, it is important to have a goal. Even when you fall short of the goal, you have done that much more than you would have just because you took the time to say your intention out loud and work toward it.
  •  Something that Brings you Joy – Do we really take the time to think of this or do we just go-go-go? When I stop to reflect during the week, I realize bringing joy can be merely dancing to the radio while at my desk or talking to a friend at practice. Joy doesn’t have to be an astronomical thing but something small.
  • Awareness – I had a hard time reflecting this week on an act of kindness. Try as I may, I could not come up with anything. You know who did for me? My kids. In retrospect, this was probably better because it gave them the opportunity to see what others were doing.
  • Conversation – We do not often take the time to listen to each other’s week and goals. This has allowed us to hold that deeper conversation, to develop what listening looks like, and to encourage each other when stuck or to cheer on accomplishments. If we can continue this, it may help make those sassy tween years a little easier.

Hints on how we make it work:

  • Dinner time Sunday – This is a natural time to pause, eat (so busy with hands and quiet mouths), as well as conclude by prepping for the upcoming week.
  • Planners – I bring mine out and have our daughter grab hers.  She takes notes on what she has coming up and I do on mine also. This way we review the week and everyone knows their schedule.
  • Take turns writing – It would be much quicker if I just wrote it out (and probably more legible) but it’s important that each person feels as if they are contributing to the family’s plan. Both my kids think as they write so by allowing them to jot the notes, they see the plan, experience ownership of the plan, and listen while creating their column. 
  • Set up rules – We have a no-electronics rule during this time (unless it is to grab dates from an email). We may institute a “talking stick” if our youngest keeps blurting out in between other’s talking. This helps set the ground rules so that the meeting moves along. 
  • Set a timer – The first one will take some time but then once you get the hang of it, the meeting should conclude in thirty minutes.  Anything more and you have lost your audience.

Sure, we get an Olympic medal worthy eye roll when the meeting starts. Those will fade as the new becomes routine and what is ushering in this change is simply that smile of pride when my kids hear how proud we are of their contributions and continued drive. They see the changes in the house and they know they had a part in it. That self-accomplishment is rich and it’s own reward. To taste that and chase it…that is worth the meeting.

Personally, since starting this ritual (it’s only been a couple weeks), I was actually the one to remind a group about a meeting time (what?!?!?!), made conference sign-ups (it was the very last slot open on the very last day, but it counts), feigned the confidence to pitch our products to a local store, and even helped a friend remember to order her daughter’s yearbook. Although I may be jinxing myself,  I have made it a few weeks without missing dates. None of these may seem groundbreaking but when you operate in a perpetual state of sliding in as the bell rings, these are accomplishments.

If you decide to go down this road of family meetings, let us know what tips you have or where you have seen success. After all, what works for one may not another and if we can all learn a little from each other, how much warmer will this season of craziness be.

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