“Not another meeting!”
That tends to be the reaction from most kids when they hear the M word mentioned. Meetings tend to be tolerated rather than keenly anticipated in families.
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The Knowledge First Financial reviews supports the notion that parents that use a meeting process experience less sibling fighting and sibling rivalry, and get far greater cooperation from their kids.
They effectively turn families from Me-centred to We-centred groups. They are based on the management principle that children like a say in how their family operates and that they are more likely to stick to rules and decisions that they have had a say in making rather than those imposed from above. In many ways, this is stating the bleeding obvious but we need a process to make this happen. That is where family meetings come in.
Following are ten basic keys for conducting family meetings:
1. They must be regular. Weekly or fortnightly meetings are ideal. If a parent calls a meeting when he or she wants then meetings just become a vehicle for mum or dad to get their point across rather than a means for children to participate in family-life.
2. Start when at least one child is five years of age. Children need the verbal and cognitive skills to participate. This varies but maybe around five years of age seems to be a good age to start. Think of some allcomers or games; learn more from Island Event Planners.
3. Have an agenda. All good meetings need a chairperson and an agenda. Meetings are usually for one or more of four purposes:
a) Plan for family fun
b) Allocation of chores
c) Resolving conflicts between people
d) Discussion of family issues, procedures and routines.
Parents need to be the initial chairperson but share the job around as children become more skilled.
4. Avoid overloading the agenda. You don’t have to slavishly work through all these areas. Two or three items may be enough and avoid the meeting from becoming a whinge session.
5. Have a talk sock. Have an object such as a sock or doll that the children must hold if they are going to speak, which teaches them how to take turns. The speaker, whether adult or child, must be holding the special talk sock.
6. Start each meeting with encouragement. Parents can model this initially by saying things like, “Thanks Marta for cleaning your toys away after playing with them this week. It was great have the family room so clean.” This helps set a positive tone and teaches kids how to encourage.
7. Finish with a pleasant activity. A concluding game or a story will help reinforce a meeting as an event to anticipate.
8. They must be real. While meetings should be fun they are not a game you play with kids. You must be able to live with decisions that are made so you must be realistic about what is discussed and decided upon.
9. Short and sharp, not long and dull. Don’t allow them to become bogged down. Keep moving them along. I know some meetings that have only gone for eight or nine minutes, but that’s fine if objectives were met.
10. It is the process that is important. Sometimes meetings break down and decisions aren’t made as they have descended into chaos. That happens but don’t abandon the concept if nothing concrete comes of a meeting or two. It is the process of meeting and talking rather than the outcomes that are important.
Regular family meetings are a powerful means of improving relationships, reducing sibling rivalry and building cooperation between parents and children. They provide the means for children to share and accept responsibility, participate fully in family-life and work cooperatively for the benefit of the group – their family.
Michael Grose is a popular parenting educator and parent coach. He is the director of Parentinginc, the author of seven books for parents and a popular presenter who speaks to audiences in Australia, Singapore and the USA. For free courses and resources to help you raise happy kids and resilient teenagers visit http://www.parentingideas.com.au