Keeping a family running smoothly is like herding cats through an open field.
If your house is anything like mine, it’s a perpetual mess of schedules, homework, housework and five distinct personalities living under one roof. And if your family is like mine, being in the same room together without technology, toys or other distractions is a minor miracle.
That’s one of the reasons my wife and I started the tradition of weekly family meetings.
What’s a Family Meeting?
Think of a family meeting like a board meeting in a business. At Ramsey Solutions, the operating board meets every week. There, members discuss upcoming projects and current obstacles, evaluate past successes and failures, and chart the course for the future.
In a family meeting, you take a similar approach. You’ll want to include elements like these:
1. Calendar. Juggling the schedules of two adults and three children should be an Olympic sport. We keep track of upcoming events by checking our calendars. When am I going out of town? Who has a doctor’s appointment? Who has practice? You get the idea. When you talk about it as a family, everyone knows the game plan. Or at least part of it.
2. Compliments. Too often, family members get the leftovers of our emotional and physical energy. As a result, we’re quick to argue, complain and get on each other’s nerves. Once a week, though, we ask each of our boys to say one thing they appreciate about every other family member. It can be thanking a sibling for helping with dishes or complimenting dad on how great the yard looks.
3. Concerns. We also ask each family member to talk about how we can be praying for them in the week ahead. They may be worried about a test, a project, a friendship, or an upcoming game.
Benefits of Family Meetings
Listen to me. I know family meetings sound completely corny and cheesy. I get it. But trust me, talking together every week will change the dynamic of your family and develop valuable traits in your kids (and yourself). Here are some benefits:
- Ability to verbalize feelings
- Ability to speak in front of groups
- Time away from technology
- Demonstrating concern for other people
- Reinforcing family values
- Seeing family as a priority
Spending time in these meetings will offer your family the opportunity to grow tighter as a unit, even amidst a culture that is constantly tearing it apart.
Guidelines for Family Meetings
When you set up the family meetings, you need some guardrails to keep you from chasing rabbit trails. I have three boys, so I understand how you can get sidetracked! Here are a few guidelines to follow:
1. Check your expectations. Three boys in one house equals chaos. Even when they’re sitting down in a family meeting. Don’t expect your meetings to be the stuff of Hallmark Channel movies. You’ll feel disappointed and frustrated and give up on the meetings. Things won’t go smoothly every time. You’re dealing with children, remember? You’re not aiming for perfection. You’re establishing a pattern for relating to each other.
2. Use a talking stick. In our house, we bring a ruler to the meeting. It’s our talking stick. Only the person who’s holding the stick can talk. Then, the stick passes to the next person and so on. You could use a ruler, a dowel rod, or a stick you’ve discovered in the yard. You could even use a marble. The item doesn’t matter. You’re just teaching kids to wait their turn and to listen.
3. Don’t overdo it. When your kids are young, don’t plan an hour-long family meeting. They don’t have the attention span for that. As the kids get older, you can lengthen the meetings. Just don’t push your kids beyond their developmental capabilities!
And the biggest rule of all? Keep an element of fun whenever you can. Along with a heavy and steady dose of prayer, these times you share together are what will keep your family connected despite the chaos.