Who doesn’t want a family you can be proud of? Hopefully no one after my last post, the first in this three-part series on weekly family meetings. Of course, the family meeting is not the only thing that will determine your family’s success, but think of it as a hammer in the toolbox of life. There are a lot of other tools in there, but few will have the same impact.
In my last post, I shared why to have weekly family meetings. This time, I’ll begin to share how to have them. More specifically, we’ll take a look at the all-important preparation — the meeting before the meeting. Here’s how to get ready:
- Talk to your spouse. This is one area where the single parent will have the advantage. The rest of us will need to get our spouse on board with the idea of a family meeting. Set aside some time for this conversation. I suggest you begin by asking what he/she thinks about the current state of your family. After carefully listening, ask if you can share a proven idea you’ve discovered to help both of you build a family you can be proud of. By that point, if you have listened well, the answer will likely be “Yes.” Show him/her these posts. Have a copy of Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective Families ready. Offer to read it together over the next few weeks.
- Choose a day and time. Once you have both agreed to use this family meeting tool to build a family you can be proud of, choose a day and time that would work best for your family. For us, Thursday works the best, not long before the kids go to bed. Important: The family meeting must be a Big Rock in your family agenda jar. Protect it with great passion. Say no to just about everything that tries to bump it from its scheduled home. On those rare occasions when our family has to miss it, we reschedule it immediately within the next day or two at the most.
- Pick a place. The best place for a family meeting is around a table. Ideally, you would choose a round or square table at which to meet. There’s something about everyone facing each other with nothing but a small open space between that forces and encourages connectedness. We intentionally chose a square, counter-height table that seats all eight of us in order to build our family around it. Don’t underestimate the magical power of the table.
- Create a way to craft the weekly agenda. There’s nothing worse than a meeting spent fighting about what the meeting is about. We’ve all been in those and never want to go back. Our family sets up a dry-erase board. During the week, anyone may write a topic on the board that they would like to discuss at the next meeting. Just before the meeting, my wife and I talk briefly, adjust as needed, and we’re ready to start. If the kids put a topic best dealt with privately, we’ll handle it that way. Otherwise, we put the topic on the table and see what the family thinks. If a topic is important to your children, it needs to be important to you. See my post on How to Talk to Your Kids.
- SNACKS! Let’s face it. Food can cover a lot of mistakes as you get this family meeting thing off the ground so prepare for it. If you have little kids, the snacks will excite them the most — at first. Over time, even the youngest children start to connect with the stuff that really matters. To give them greater ownership for the meetings, we ask each child to take a turn planning the snack for the next meeting. They get creative, learn organizational skills, and take some pride in their responsibility. Plus, the meeting always ends on a good — and often sweet — note.
If it all sounds like too much work, think of how much energy gets drained from your family relationships because you’re not on the same page each week. If you want to build a family you can be proud of, you’ll have to take some consistent action. One definition of insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly while expecting different results. Don’t be that family. Start fresh. Start now.
What are you thinking so far about a family meeting? Sound too hard? Too easy? Leave your thoughts in the comments for all of us to grow.