I can’t imagine NOT wanting to build a family you can be proud of. But often, in the rush of the typical week, wanting and doing can be complete strangers. Today, for example, I’m not sure they’re even talking. To help them get along, we use our weekly family meeting to keep our family on course. As Steven Covey wisely notes, every airplane must have it’s course constantly corrected to arrive at it’s intended destination. Likewise, families need to commit to continuous course corrections. The family meeting is the perfect place to do it.
- Opening Tradition. I don’t know how it began but after we gather around the table, we start each meeting the same way. I announce, “The Blankschaen family meeting will now come to order!” And then we all knock three times on the table. It’s quirky, I know. But that’s the point. It’s uniquely ours. I doubt that any other family will choose to start the same way. And as we begin, I often repeat the critical first rule of the meeting: No talking while others are speaking. First listen. Then speak. Because our kids are still younger, I usually need to remind them of the first rule each time. Or they remind me to remind them.
- Family Focus Time. The first item on the agenda is always whatever we need to focus on at that time. Often, we review our family mission statement and focus in on part of it. Sometimes we focus on one of Covey’s Seven Habits or read a story written to illustrate them for children. Sometimes we have character issues or family dysfunction we need to address. Occasionally, we’ll have a significant decision or relational trauma to share and discuss. We might have an update on Thoko – a child we sponsor in Africa through World Vision – or from Show Hope or other ministries we support to help the kids get a global glimpse of our family impact. We also use this time to spotlight a family member for recognition. Anyone can point out another family member who has done something right, kind, or helpful. Once they share it, we all shine an imaginary spotlight on the honored family member — usually by forming an “O” with our hands as if we were lighting them on stage.
- Schedule Review. As my 4-year-old puts it, we talk about “how to have our week.” My wife usually heads this effort up because — yes, I admit it — she’s better at organizing than I am. We work through each day of the following week reminding of regular events: Awana, swimming, piano, basketball, community meetings, etc. Special events also get a spotlight such as a date with my wife, one-on-one time with the children, weekly family night, vacation plans and whatever else might be going on with our clan. I can’t even begin to recall how many times we’ve caught conflicts or headed off scheduling disasters at our family meeting by simply taking the time together to look ahead.
- Sharing their Heart. After the schedule review, we open the table for each person to share whatever might be on his or her heart. It may be a prayer concern for themselves or others. It may be a topic they put on the agenda or a conflict they are having in the family. Often the child simply wants to let the family know something important to themselves — winning a computer game, creating a work of art, or a conversation they had with a teacher or friend. If we are having a special night such as Bring a Furry Friend, this would be the time each child gets to introduce their fluffy friend — often with great fanfare. This is the time a parent must resist the temptation to rush. Although it might try your patience, take the time to let your children talk — and be heard.
- SNACKS! As I shared in my last post, each child takes a turn preparing the treat for the week. They take the duty quite seriously, often crafting elaborate and creative plans. My wife helps them, of course. And yes, sometimes it’s just a bag of chips grabbed during the weekly grocery run. Don’t leave this part out. It helps create momentum in the early going for the children. Either way, we can be sure the family meeting always leaves a good taste in our mouths — literally.
Following our example will get you started on the track to build a family you can be proud of. But it will only get you started. Get Covey’s book Seven Habits of Highly Effective Families. Make the process unique to your family. As Covey’s second habit suggests, “Begin with the End in Mind.” Imagine the family legacy you will want to have left fifty years from now. Now start building it this week — one meeting at a time.
Have a question I didn’t address? Ask by leaving a comment and we’ll continue to grow together.