Raising Happiness


Video: Rethinking Family Meetings

June 17, 2013 | The Main Dish, Posts with Videos | 0 comments

More calm and less chaos in just 20 minutes a week

Every year I rethink our family meetings at the beginning of the summer, when all of our routines are changing anyway, and this June has been no different—except that I recently read Bruce Feiler’s The Secrets of Happy Families, which puts a big emphasis on family meetings.

Fieler, a columnist for the New York Times, took the concept of “Agile teams” from the high-tech business world and applied them to his family. He explains:

Agile is a system of group dynamics in which teams do things in small chunks of time, adjust constantly, and review their progress frequently. Ideas don’t just flow down from the top but percolate up from the bottom. The best ideas win, no matter where they come from.

When applied to family meetings, the concept of an “agile system” really empowers kids, giving them a very tangible role in their family (as you’ll see from the video above, I think giving kids’ a voice in their upbringing is the #1 reason to have family meetings).

Fieler advocates asking three “agile” questions at each family meeting:

1. What went well in our family this week?
2. What didn’t go well?
3. What will we agree to work on in the week ahead?

I love these questions so much I’ve just revised our family meeting agenda to reflect them. The idea, according to Fieler, is that in answering those three questions, kids start to evaluate their own progress. He also recommends that kids suggest their own rewards and punishments for the things they’ll be working on in the week ahead. Although I’m not a huge fan of motivating kids with external rewards, I can see how this might work really well in terms of letting kids regulate their own privileges (like their screen time) based on whether or not they’ve met their own goals.

To include those three questions, I needed to shorten up our existing agenda a lot (there was too much on it, anyway). I moved our calendar review to Sunday night, and added the “plan family fun” part of the meeting to the end of the calendar review, which will give me time to plan for the weekend (and increase the odds that we’ll actually do what the kids suggest). I am also going to start making the “appreciations” opener optional—a time to recognize things we appreciate in others briefly. The way we are doing it now can take up the entire meeting time, because every family member says something they appreciate about every other family member.

If you are new to family meetings, get started by watching the video above. This written post is also a good resource, as is this podcast.

Have fun and let me know how it goes!

© 2013 Christine Carter, Ph.D.

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