by Hannah Slattery, LPC, NCC
Criteria number 2 for Positive Discipline is all about connection. Feeling connected and a part of society is an instinctual need. Being a part of a family and understanding one's role and significance is crucial for healthy development. As parents I would like you to start thinking about when you feel the most secure and connected to one another in your family. What are you doing together, how are you treating one another and most importantly how do you think everyone is feeling during these interactions. Let’s now think about when you were at your wits end because everyone was flustered, frustrated and freaking out. How connected and significant did you feel then?
One tool that is highly effective to help build connection within the Positive Discipline teachings are Family Meetings. Family Meetings are essential so that every single family member plays a role in contributing to the household in an effective and loving way. Remember back to the 411 on Positive Discipline article (if not, please go back and read the basics), we spoke about the challenges and life skills chart. Family Meetings encourage life skills building while working on the challenges together.
There are two ways Family Meetings can be run. The first is the “Short Version”, designed so that if there is an acute family issue, sibling rivalry, struggling with homework or chores, the one topic can be sorted through together.
Short Version guidelines
All family members must be present(make time for this)
There is to be a talking stick or object so that only one person may speak at a time
The individual that is struggling will discuss their issue with the family.
The stick or object will be passed around the table in a circle two times in which each member will give ways to solve the problem
Once the stick has been passed around twice, the individual with the issue can provide feedback on which ideas or techniques they will be utilizing to help with the issue.
Please note that even if it is an acute issue all family members have to be in an appropriate mindset to start the process. If any individual is struggling to regulate emotions, this has to be taken care of first.
Weekly Family Meetings are a huge part of what increases a child’s ability to participate in problem solving inside and outside the home. It also encourages teamwork as well as family bonding. When having the first family meeting it is important to go over meeting agreements in addition to the talking stick procedure. When children get to create group rules they are more willing to abide by them and in addition they get to help create the consequences for when they are not followed.
Below are the 9 steps for effective Family Meetings.
Regular Version guidelines
Properly introduce Family Meeting guidelines and rules in addition to the consequences agreed upon by all members(would be helpful to have this written down and brought to each meeting). The first meeting is where you would go around the table(with the stick) and ask everyone to say a group meeting rule and consequence.
Remind all members about the talking stick rules.(helpful to have something memorable as an item to bring more connectedness)
Start the meeting with each family member giving a compliment or appreciation to every single person. “ I would like to compliment ______ for ________. (This fills up the heart with some love prior to potentially having difficult conversations).
The family agenda is discussed. The agenda is created during the week where each individual may write down things that they want discussed at the Family Meeting. You can also make this a time to go over contributions (chores), weekly plans and any other helpful information so that everyone is on the same page.( This should be placed in an area that is accessible to all family members).
Time for more teaching! The Family Meeting will not be a brawl discussing how each sibling is annoying or any other unnecessary hurt. Discuss focusing on solutions and brainstorming through the issues. For the first few times it can be helpful to even think of the silliest solutions to break the ice. While solutions are being offered ask if anyone would like to be the scribe to write down the ideas. Again, encouraging participation.
When problem-solving together children may not know how to contribute or be worried about their responses being “correct”, allow for silence. You may say “ who would like to offer some silly solutions?” It’s important to remember that during the beginning of the meeting stage there will be hiccups, don’t let this stop you, use the knowledge you already have about Positive Discipline to continue on.
Once you have solutions written down by the scribe, go through them as a family and discuss the ones that are 1. Related, 2. Reasonable, 3.Respectful and 4. Helpful. You may say “ Does anyone see any solutions that may need to be eliminated because they do not fit the 3 R’s and an H?
Now this is the true test. It’s time to pick a solution together. You may offer ideas; would you like to narrow it down to one, try a couple different ones or have another time for it at our next family meeting?”
That was A LOT of work. Parents and kids alike are busier than ever, so it’s understandable to just want to leave the meeting at that. Not so fast. After Family Meetings, just like the beginning, we need to refill our cups. It’s time to take turns deciding what the fun activity will be for the week.
What’s wonderful about Positive Discipline is that not only does it leave room for mistakes, but it encourages them. Parents and children alike are going to find transitioning to a new family dynamic a little challenging. This is all normal. Be patient, firm and kind to yourself and your children. Print out these 9 steps and utilize it at your first family meeting.
**There is a normal amount of resistance that may come from a parent or child not wanting to participate in the first few Family Meetings. If you have encouraged them and they still are not ready yet, let them be and allow for natural consequences. If household responsibilities are chosen during Family Meetings, the individual who is not ready to participate may not be able to choose their tasks. They may also not be able to pick out the Family activity for the week or decide on the restaurant you go to. Remember, this is not used for shaming or guilting them. This is information you are sharing so that they understand the consequences of not participating in family meetings. Do your best to enjoy the family members that are present and do not berate the one who does not come. We all want to be connected so their natural guide will eventually push them to participate.