Let me first say that parenting is a tricky business where you do the very best you can do, and still when you look back through the years there is always something you would change. I have made plenty of choices that I would do differently – but more that I would do exactly the same. If you are reading this post you are a conscientious parent. I am sure the same is true for you.
My wife and I merged our families.
We were both divorced and we both had a boy of our own that we brought into our marriage. My wife’s son was in the fifth grade when we met, and mine was just three-years old. The boys had an eight-year difference. This did not make the merging of our family easy. On the contrary, our younger son was constantly seeking attention from our older son, and our older son was constantly needing space. Needless to say – the arguments were plenty.
I told my wife about the class meetings that I had been conducting in school. I told her that they were extremely effective with resolving conflicts and that it might be an effective tool to use in our home.
We started the family meetings that very week.
We had an immediate change in our house hold. Our older son stated what he needed from my wife and I as parents. He stated what he needed from his new, younger brother. From that moment he felt heard and supported. His feelings were validated, so he was open to accepting his new brother.
Our younger son also stated his feeling and his needs. Although, at his young age his needs were minimal. He did want his new brother to play with him. Our older son agreed, so long as he could get a fare amount of free time. As they grew up they learned to not only get alone – they learned to appreciate one another.
Jump ahead 17 years.
Our youngest son is 20-years old and our older one is 28. The two boys are as close as brothers can be. They are best of friends despite the eight-year age difference. A testament to this is our annual father/son back packing trip. The boys laugh non-stop – even on the grueling uphill treks.
Okay – on to the meat of this post…
I suggest running your family meetings once a week. This is often enough to form a cohesive bond within your family without being overwhelming. The four parts of the family meetings are:
- 1 – Compliments
- 2 – Review notes from last week
- 3 – Problems
- 4 – Good of the order
1 – Compliments
I always start family meetings with compliments. I do this for 2-reasons. First, you are teaching your children how to give a compliment. This is an important life-skill, and your home is the perfect place to teach it. Second, you are teaching your children how to receive a compliment. Even as an adult, I sometimes get embarrassed when I receive a compliment. Then I remember the class/family meeting that I have taught and I say, “thank you”. In most cases, that is all that needs to be said.
There are three important aspects to giving compliments:
First Give A Specific compliment
Teach your children to give a specific and meaningful compliment.
“I like your shoes.” Is not a good compliment, because the focus goes to the shoes, not your child.
“I like the way you handled the situation with your brother yesterday. He was upset and you comforted him. I appreciate your compassion!”
In the latter compliment two things are accomplished. First, you are making him or her feel good with a strong compliment. Second, you are sending a clear message that compassion is a family trait you admired.
This is a high level compliment that would initially be given by a parent. However, by modeling high quality compliments you are showing your children how an effective compliment is given. Soon your children will attempt to imitate your example.
Second Give Eye contact
During Family Meetings, teach your children to give eye contact to whoever they are complimenting. This is an important life skill that shows the world you are self-assured. This skill will reward your children as they grow into young adults who want to get a part-time job. Having the confidence to look an interviewer in the eye is a powerful job-acquiring skill.
Third – Wait for the Thank You
The compliment has not come full circle until the person receiving the compliment says, “Thank you”. Once again, teaching your children to say, “Thank you” demonstrates self-confidence that will go with them throughout their lives. So you can see that this simple act of complimenting a sibling proves to be an invaluable life-skill.
Here are some compliment starters:
– I am proud of you, because…
– I like the way you…
– I would like to acknowledge you for…
– I would like to compliment you for…
2 – Review Notes from last week
You can use a fancy booklet or a simple binder as your Family Meeting Notebook.
Each week jot down a few notes about what was agreed upon.
Keep track of the problems, and any suggestions brought up during the good of the order. If you notice that there is a reoccurring problem – this is the perfect place to address it. Create an agreement on how your family will stop the reoccurring problem. If you notice that your child is behaving more responsibly, this is another great place to compliment him or her.
3 – Problems
Teaching your children to resolve their own problems is a powerful life-skill. One of the first strategies I use to resolve problems is the “I Message”. The second is The Agreement. Most problems can be resolved with the I message. The Agreement is only used after the I Message has been tried, but the same problem pops up again.
The 5-Components to the I-message are:
- I feel…
- When you…
- Please Stop…
- I Hear… I will stop.
Let me give you a scenario for the I Message:
Let’s say your older child keeps calling the younger one “Shrimp”.
Teach your younger child to say, “(older child’s name), I feel (sad, belittled, put down, upset, ect) when you call me Shrimp, because it is a put down. Please stop calling me Shrimp.
Your older child would respond, “I hear that you want me to stop calling you Shrimp. I will stop.”
If your older child says, “It’s not a put down. It is just a nick name.”
Teach your child that what matters most is how you are making someone feel.
In this case, your older child may feel like “Shrimp” is an endearing name. However, the most important fact is that this name is making your younger child feel bad. Therefore, your older child needs to stop this behavior. This is another great life skill. Your intention does not matter if the intention has a harmful effect.
Jot down a quick note in your Family Meeting Notebook about the I-Message. Something like this:
- Johnny was calling Jenny “Shrimp”. Jenny gave I-Message.
Some problems require a bit more work. For these problem I use The Agreement.
Let’s use Johnny and Jenny again for a new scenario:
This time Jenny keeps running into Johnny’s room and taking a photo of him with her phone. Johnny has asked her to stop, but she keeps doing it.
Step 1 – Define the problem
Ask your child to explain what is happening.
In this case, Johnny would say that Jenny keeps taking picture of him on her phone.
Step 2 – Define what is needed to solve the problem
Ask your child what he or she needs for the problem to be solved.
Johnny would say, “I need Jenny to stop taking pictures of me.”
Step 3 – The Agreement
Ask the other child if she is willing to do what the first child is asking.
Ask Jenny, “Jenny, are you willing to do what Johnny is asking?”
In most cases, Jenny would agree to this request.
If your child does not agree, then you need to figure out why they will not agree to what is being asked. If the request is reasonable, like the one in this case – then you may need to step in as the parent. You would tell Jenny that she must stop taking photos, or you will take the phone away.
Step 4 – The Consequence
Agree on an appropriate consequence if the agreement is broken. As parent, you rule over the entire house, so do not be afraid to assign a discipline. In this case, you might tell Jenny that if she breaks the agreement, you will take her phone for 1-week.
Jot down a quick note about the The Agreement. Something like this:
- Jenny was taking photos of Johnny on her phone.
- Johnny asked her to stop, but she did not.
- Jenny agreed to stop taking photos.
- If Jenny takes another photo of Johnny, she will loose her phone for a week.
From time to time – you may come across a situation that stumps you. Leave a comment below, and I will do my best to offer a suggestion. Or, another reader may have an even better suggestion.
4 – Good of the Order
This is where your children get to share out or offer suggestions.
Your child might share the fact that he or she met a new friend at school. They might tell about an upcoming field trip, or the fact that they got an A on an assignment.
Your child might offer a suggestion to the family. Our older boy did this. He suggested that we have a game night. My wife and I were extremely busy with work and running the boys from one sporting event to another. Both our boys were involved in separate activities.
Our first thought was that we were too booked. We realized that if we were going to let our boys make suggestions we had to at least give it a try. We committed to a Wednesday Night Game Night for 1-month to see how it would go. It worked wonders. We found that we did have time and it was a ton of fun!
Most Good of the Order comments will not need to be written into the Family Meeting Notebook. However, from time to time you may want to jot something down. With the case above, you might write something like this:
- Johnny suggested that we have a game night.
- We will try it for 1-month on Wednesday nights.
- We will have pizza and play as we eat from 6:00 to 7:30
Family & Class Meetings
One more thing:
I developed my educational fantasy game, TeachersDungeon, with the intension of helping children reach their academic potential. The game self-adjusts to each players level of academic ability. Check here to create a free account.
Let me know if there is any way I can help!
Novels by McCoy –
I have written a number of books that are available on Amazon. I have nonfiction books on mathematics that link to video tutorials and are designed to help children gain a deeper understanding of the math. Here is a link to the first book in my series on fractions. I have also written a chapter book and a young adult novel. You can have a free preview by clicking on the links below.
MY ADVENTURES WITH CHICKENSPIKE – This is a chapter book that is perfect for children in 3rd and 4th grades. My Adventures with ChickenSpike is a Children’s Fantasy Book. The main character is a young boy who is being bullied. He travels to a distant planet and finds his inner strength. By the time he returns home not only is he no longer a victim, he is a hero!
RED – This is a young adult novel that is especially designed for children in 5th and 6th grades. Red is an action packed adventure with two main characters and a number of supporting characters that add humor and drama to this novel. Bruno Vic and Evelyn Rose attend Sir Francis Drake Middle School. Bruno is big, street-wise, and tough, but he also has high morals and undying loyalty to his friends. Evelyn Rose was born rich, but an unfortunate turn of events has landed her in the heart of the Tenderloin District of San Francisco. Bruno, Evelyn, and their friends are desperate to steer clear of the gangs, so the turn to a mysterious man that the gangs seem to fear. His name is Red.
Until next time…
Have a great day – Brian McCoy