Why Family Meetings are a Hidden Treasure

Meghan Leahy’s recent article in The Washington Post, “The right response when your child doesn’t want to be ‘bossed around'” is a great look at autonomy-seeking single-digit aged kids.  She talks about independence and how healthy and necessary it can be, even if it’s uncomfortable for parents.  Leahy writes, “All children who are developing to their fullest potential come to an age when they want to create a space for themselves, a voice and a sense of independence within their families.”

Leahy illustrates this approach with a shout-out to a strategy she learned at the Parent Encouragement Program, the family meeting.  The idea of getting everyone together once a week to discuss the family agenda and to engage the kids in finding solutions so they have a voice in the management of the family is a great one to remember.  I, too, learned about this at a PEP class, where I’m currently also a Board member.

I asked PEP to share some class materials here at The Lounge to give our readers some insight into how how family meetings can be done, and why they’re helpful.  When I took PEP‘s multi-week Teens class last spring, they spent a lot of time teaching us how to plan, structure and implement family “councils” or meetings, and WHY they help each kid feel like a productive, useful, problem-solving member of the family team.  PEP’s curriculum writes, “A harmonious family is orderly…cooperative, efficient, and pleasant, (with) an atmosphere of friendliness, kindness and love.”

PEP advocates an “open forum, in which all family members can express ideas, opinions and complaints, and be listened to.”  Some elements of the meeting can include:

  • information
  • plans
  • rules
  • complaints
  • decisions

I love it!  We used to do this more regularly at our home and have picked it up again recently.  There are tons of ways you can personalize it, including a clockwise “compliment circle” where you go around the table and say something nice about the person next to you.  That certainly kicks things off in a friendly manner, and who doesn’t love to be complimented?  I share and then post our color-coded (yes, I’m a details person) calendar on the wall, and it’s great to look at the big picture and the little details that drive our busy lives… together.

*Note – PEP materials provided here with credit to Leader B. Clair Hawes, Consultant.

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