Holding regular family meetings is a simple yet powerful way that parents can keep their household running smoothly.
The purpose of family meetings and why your family needs them
Most people would never expect a large, multi-faceted company to run itself – at least not very well or very efficiently. Yet when it comes to our families, we often expect just that. We assume things will run smoothly with little or no maintenance, or that problems will work themselves out and everyone will get along by the grace of love alone.
The reality is that just like companies, families require work. It takes effort, dedication, and regular maintenance to keep a family running smoothly. This is something that often gets lost in the hustle and bustle of daily life. Months or even years go by without any type of collective discussion about how things are going. Like a ship caption that never checks his compass, things slowly go astray. Tensions arise and fester underneath the surface, leading to more severe problems over time.
What are family meetings?
Family meeting are a board-room style get-together modeled from the business world, designed to provide a regular venue to address pertinent issues. Think of it like a weekly session of self-administered family therapy.
The benefits of family meetings
When done correctly, family meetings can instantly bring about positive changes in the way everyone relates to one another, because they foster open communication that will diminish tensions and reduce conflict. Speaking on the positive effects of family meetings, parenting specialists Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish (1998, p.237) write: “The most enthusiastic endorsement for family meetings comes from parents and children who have experienced them. One teenager told us, ‘It’s a great way to make sure tensions never build up. We sit around and talk about family activities, chores, who wants to do what, who wants to trade off what, who’s bothered by what.’”
Another mother raves about how her first family meeting went. After discussing some fire safety concerns, she says “we talked about various family concerns: Who would walk the dog on school mornings and what movie to rent this weekend. Then there was a moment of silence. Our seven-year-old said, ‘You know, I think this is a great family. I’m really happy I’m in it.’ Our six-year-old chimed in, ‘Me too. I like out family.’ It brought tears to my eyes. Something so simple as a family meeting had such an effect! And it only took fifteen minutes. That night we all felt a special closeness.” (ibid, p.239)
It would be hard to find another single thing you can do that would lead to such enormous benefits for everyone involved. Once you get in the habit of regular meetings with your family, you’ll wonder how you ever survived without them.
Information on how to conduct a family meeting
The following sections will walk you through the process step-by-step, explaining how to get the most out of your family meetings.