We held our first family meeting recently, and my kids groaned at the mere mention of it. I was taken aback by their lack of enthusiasm because I didn’t think they knew it to be anything more than a gathering of family members. For all they knew, we could be meeting around the outdoor fireplace making S'mores.
Then I realized the context in which I declared it and thus realized family meeting mistake No. 1: Don’t demand one while sending a kid to time out. Next time, I will make it when everyone is calm and happy and hope for a better response. Until then, I was stuck with sour puss faced kids and a husband that was just going with the flow.
“What are we talking about, Mom?” declared my daughter.
A laundry list of things came to mind, but after mistake No. 1, I realized I’d better turn this meeting around or it would all be in vain. I told my kids, and watched as my husband nodded along, that we need to set some ground rules for how we treat our house. The sour puss faces continued with a sprinkling of rolled eyes and sighs. My agenda wasn’t getting the response I had wanted. Hmm, maybe I should have started with something a bit more positive. Note to self: Next meeting, tell kids something they did very well that week. Oh, and husband, too.
I did get some points when I asked the kids to tell me how they think the house should be treated. Of course, none of what they said was what I was after, but Hubby quickly felt my pain and chimed in with a few great responses.
“I’m not sure what you mean," said my son. “We keep the house nice.”
I admit I was getting tired at this point, so I decided to just show them what I meant. I walked my kids around the house and yard and showed them the shoes thrown in the hallway, the toys and bikes left in the yard and the dried up tortellini under my son’s chair. That got an “Ew, gross” reaction from everyone.
As we all gathered back in the family room to continue our family meeting, I was feeling pretty sure of myself. I asked the kids the question about how our house should be treated again and got the answers I was hoping for. Success!
Since I was feeling like the world’s smartest mother, I decided to throw in some self esteem building and asked the kids how they thought we could keep the house nice but still have fun at the same time. Oh, they loved this. My daughter grabbed a piece of paper and they both started shared their ideas.
- Put (most) toys away before taking out more.
- Put shoes, hats and coats away once you come inside (and away doesn’t mean on the hallway floor).
- Clean up outdoor toys and bikes when you’re done using them (and help neighbor kids, too, since you use their stuff all of the time).
- Lean over your plate when eating so food goes in your mouth and not all over the floor (this was for my son!).
- Offer to help Mom and Dad when they are cleaning.
OK, so number five was from me, but a woman can dream.
The list was going in the right direction, so I left them to have fun with it while Hubby and I retreated to another room. I shrugged my shoulders and waited for his response to this new parenting technique. Maybe next time he can call the meeting and set the agenda so I am not always the heavy. He liked that idea.
Until then, I’d say our first family meeting went reasonably well. I learned a few things about having a meeting with kids and the kids learned a few things about taking care of their house.