family meeting Rules of order

Everyone thinks family meetings are a great idea - for someone else's family. Your family is too small. Too large. Too busy. The kids won't like it. 

Family of four thumbs-up on couch.

If you wait until your kids are teens to start weekly family meetings, you're right - they won't like it. Teens don't like anything.

If possible start holding family meetings when your kids are young. But later is better than never.

A family meeting offers many benefits that far outweigh any inconvenience (or a teen's rolling eyes). The family learns to communicate, to problem-solve as a group, to set goals, to plan, and to resolve conflicts.

All this in 30 minutes a week. Here's how to get started.

When: Choose A Day and Time Without Conflicts

Choose a day and time that pose the fewest conflicts. Once you set your meeting time, stick to it. No one can plan anything for that time.

We like Sunday nights because we're all home and it's the beginning of a new week so it's a good time to plan. We go over schedules, plans, major homework projects, and anything else that will impact the family.

Where:  Somewhere Comfortable

Hold your meeting somewhere comfortable for everyone. The kitchen table is ideal.

How:  Tailor the Meeting to Your Family Members'  Ages

  • Have an agenda so you stay on topic and don't forget anything. Post a piece of paper on the fridge the day of the meeting and let the kids sign up items they want to discuss.
  • Appoint roles: You'll need a moderator. If the kids are old enough, take turns. Bobby can do it this week. Sarah can do it next week. They'll learn valuable leadership skills in the comfort of their own home. You'll also need a secretary to take notes so you can check back and see what you've agreed on later. You could even have "specialists" or "committee chairs" who are in charge of certain areas, such as researching a new pet or the fund-raising campaign to fund a ski trip.
  • Have a token object to denote who has the floor. It could be a teddy bear. It could be a hat. Whatever. But when you've got the bunny rabbit, you've got the floor. That way there are no misunderstandings about whose turn it is to talk.
  • Vote when appropriate. Some matters are adult decisions. Say that.
  • End on a good note. At the end of the meeting, the secretary should summarize the major points so it's clear what was decided. Then have dessert and play a game. This will make meetings a lot more fun to look forward to.

Choose Family Meeting Topics

Topics will vary from week to week, but here are some that will keep coming up. Discuss one topic at a time so that you stay focused. Go around the table and give everyone a chance to talk. (Some kids may need timers.)

Woman on computer calendar page.
  • Scheduling: One by one, everyone will go through all his commitments for the week. Band. Soccer practice. Doctor's appointments. Field trips. Golf games. Big School projects. Recitals. Write these in on the family schedule. Now that all activities are written down, you can see and resolve any conflicts. When you figure out the week in advance, you not only are helping the family get through the week, but you are teaching your children time management skills they will use throughout life.
  • Chores: If your family switches off chores weekly, this is a good time to do it. This is also an excellent time to discuss what tasks need to be added or done better. 
  • Problems: These should be family problems, not personal. This is not a good time to berate Billy about his grades. Do that privately. When someone presents a problem, everyone brainstorms a solution. Show the kids how to set short-term attainable goals. Report back on the progress next week.
  • Fun stuff: Have everyone tell one good thing that happened to them last week. Try to praise each kid. Announce awards and honors.
  • Plan ahead: Plan vacations and school holidays and even the next weekend's activities.

Establish Family Meeting Rules

Make your rules, write them down and stick to them.

1.  Meetings are mandatory. No TV. No phone calls. No texting.

2.  Be respectful. No interrupting, shouting, or belittling remarks.

3.  Criticize the behavior, not the person. Don't say "Christy is so messy I can't stand it!" Say, "I really don't like the way Christy leaves her homework spread out on the counter."

We also like to hold a special meeting at the beginning of each year to discuss family and personal goals for the coming year.

We look at the year that just ended and talk about what was good and what was bad and how we could have made it better.

Then we plan the big events for the coming year and begin talking about where we'd like to go for vacation and start discussing how to save the money for that. We don't always agree - but at least we're talking.


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