Thursday, October 17, 2013

Our Secret Weapon

Years ago I stumbled across a parenting book that I love: Positive Discipline by Jane Nelsen. I like a lot of her ideas, but one that has made a big difference in our family is the concept of family meetings. I would consider this to be a critical part of how life functions around here. Here is how it goes.

Every Sunday night we gather around a large bowl of popcorn. (The popcorn is really just there to keep the kids engaged in the topics at hand because, hey, our kids are young. But it works because food is a good attention-getter for any child, right?) We start with a prayer and then go around the circle and everyone says one thing they love about every other family member. Then we get down to business. (Not that expressing love isn't important business, but anyway...)

Throughout the week any family member can add agenda items to a little white board that hangs in our kitchen by our table. Cameron and I frequently add family concerns or troublesome behavior patterns or other issues. The kids can add things, too. Sometimes if they come to me with a concern I tell them we'll add it to the agenda.
You may notice that the agenda item this particular week was "name calling role play". We had been working on a little name-calling issue around here, so that week we role played different things the kids could say instead of calling names if they get frustrated. Perhaps your kids are angels and would never dream of calling someone dumb or mean. If so, we still highly recommend role playing for other issues. When we do this we give a scenario, and Cameron and I try to really ham up a response with lots of drama. The kids think it's hilarious and really enjoy role playing. Hopefully they gain a few skills in the process.

Family meetings give our kids a voice in lots of decisions--everything from planning family trips to discussing calendar items to deciding rules and consequences for some chronic behavioral issues. Of course, we still have the final say. But the kids feel heard and involved. And we hope it establishes a long-term family culture of love and listening. 

We like to end our meetings with a group hug and our family cheer. No matter what we've been discussing and how it has gone, we try to end on a high.

I love the spirit of involvement and problem solving that is accomplished through regular family meetings. I love the feeling of unity when the kids shout out our family cheer. I like to think of family meetings as one of our family's secret weapons to success. I would recommend them to anyone. 

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