Sometimes I feel like life is getting away from me. Like all my good intentions to raise healthy, happy, responsible kids falls victim to the mundane of everyday living. Sometimes I feel like I just don’t have the time I need to teach my children important values and life lessons. Whenever I feel like this, I know it’s because we’ve been slacking on our Family Night.
While reading the book Duct Tape Parenting by Vicki Hoefle a while back, I was surprised to see a section about Family Meetings. In the church I attend we talk a lot about something similar that I was struggling to implement with small children. Our primary goal was to teach our kids about Jesus Christ and his gospel and it seemed futile to try to teach my then two-year-old boy anything, much less about something so abstract.
After I read that book, (which I seriously LOVED) I decided to tweak our family meetings to be a little more meaningful for everyone involved and accomplish more than just our spiritual family goals. We still talk about spiritual things and try to teach our kids those important value lessons, but we are also working on fleshing those meetings out just a little bit more.
Here are the important things you should know about Family Meetings:
1. Hold them weekly
Just pick a day (ours is Monday) and set aside the amount of time you will need to accomplish what you want to with your unique family situation. With younger kids it probably won’t take as long as with older kids or larger families. We plan on about 30 minutes, which is as long as we can get our three-year-old to focus. Pick a time and commit to it.
2. Give appreciations
In Vicki’s book she talks about how each family member should say something they appreciate about each other family member. At first I thought, yeah, that’s nice on paper but my macho husband is never going to submit to such an open display of feelings. So I randomly started asking the question most men hate. When he would say, “I love you” I would say, “Why?” I’m smiling just thinking about how uncomfortable he was the first few times. He would say, “I don’t know” and get all annoyed that I was asking these deep, probing questions. So I would be the example and tell him why I loved him. After a while, he caught on. He’s still totally macho, but he now knows how to verbalize his “why” for loving someone and I think he gets that it’s important to me and his kids to know the “why.” So if you have a husband or a teenager that isn’t particularly fond of this part, just go with it and they’ll catch on. Everybody, and I mean EVERYBODY likes to hear why people appreciate them. Vicki swears this will produce siblings that get along for the most part and are there for each other. I totally believe that.
3. Schedule huddle
I am sort of dreading the day when my kids are all involved in different things and I am running around in a daze trying to keep up with the different schedules and car trips. Even now, we have lots of things that happen or scheduled events that we have to somehow inform each other on. So many times this happens last-minute and my husband will say, “I wish you would have told me about this a long time ago.” So family meetings are a perfect place to talk about the week’s schedule and any other big events happening in the near future. We write stuff on the calendar and make sure we’re all aware of the things we have to look forward to.
4. Agree on contributions
Contributions is a euphemism for chores. Vicki explains that they decide on contributions and kids are able to barter and trade as they like until all are more or less satisfied. This accomplishes two things: a) everybody has to pitch in and you don’t have to be the maid anymore and b) virtually eliminates arguments about whose turn it is to do what. Voila! This just saved you probably hours of bickering. Don’t skip this step even when your kids are small. Most kids, above age two, are totally capable of cleaning up their toys and putting their dirty clothes in the hamper.
5. Teach a value
I have found that some of my most precious moments as a mother is when I am able to teach my son something spiritual and see him apply it in his small circle of influence. When I brought his baby sister home from the hospital I was able to peek at him in her nursery, standing on his step stool, singing her a song about being a child of God. I was amazed he knew the words so well since it actually wasn’t one of the songs we sang over and over. But it obviously stuck with him and it absolutely melted my heart. Teach your children values in the home. Whatever is important to you is probably something you consider important for your children. I believe our greatest sub-calling as parents is to be teachers.
6. Give out allowance
There is another post in the workings about children and allowance. Suffice it to say, allowance is one of the best ways I have read about to help your children learn financial responsibility. I realize that some people don’t agree with this statement but in my mind, it totally makes sense. If kids are allowed to have money, that they’ve earned, from the time they are little, they have plenty of time to make small mistakes before they are older and capable of much larger mistakes. Family meeting night is the best time to hand out this allowance.
7. Have some fun
If there’s still time, play a game. Watch a movie. Go bowling. Go outside and look at the stars together. Do whatever fancies you and counts as quality, uninterrupted time with your kids. They will only be this age for a very short time and you don’t want to miss it. Fun as a family is one of the greatest ways to bond and to ensure you always have things to talk about and memories to relive.
It’s so easy to resort to survival mode and constantly be putting fires out all day, every day. I hope you’ll try family meetings because I know that when we make them a priority, we add a little more intention to our parenting and to our lives.