Updated: Feb 23
For me, family meetings are the core of Positive Discipline, and how it works itself out in our house. When we miss a week, we all suffer. We really benefit from coming together as a team and being with each other, encouraging each other and looking for solutions to our problems.
So, what do they look like in our family?
We sit down, on Sunday mornings, over first or second breakfast (depending if you're me or one of the children!), and
1) We assign roles. Our kids do class meetings, as their school uses positive discipline, so they wanted to bring those into our meetings. They can include 'president, secretary, scribe, guardian of the talking stick, time monitor, etc..(sometimes I feel we have more roles than people ;-), but responsibilities help them to grow)
2) We go round the table giving compliments to each other. When you're 3, compliments might look like "thank you", then "thank you for being my brother", and then little by little they transform into "I appreciated you playing with me when you wanted to sit and read". We respond to the compliment with "Thank you, [name]" (We needed to introduce this, because at the beginning some of us were lousy at accepting compliments!)
2) Then we look into our meeting book, to remind ourselves of the conclusions of last week. (As I write this, I'm reminded that I need to finish my task of drawing up a new jobs chart!!) We see if there's anything outstanding, and review any solutions we've put in place, to see if they need modifying
3) Next is the agenda itself. Our agenda lives on a wall near the kitchen, and everyone is welcome to add points to it throughout the week. Just before family meeting, we read it to Myriam, our youngest, to see if there's anything she would like to add.
4) A typical point on the agenda might be 'Nathanael breaking his promise'. Samuel will explain what the difficulty was (using either bugs and wishes, or 'I' messages (I felt bad on Wednesday when Nathanael said he would play lego with me, and then instead he wanted to read). Then, we remind everyone that we're not here to go over the difficulty, but to look for solutions. We use a talking stick that we pass around to each person in turn, and the scribe writes down all the solutions proposed. At the end we agree on a solution to try for the week.
5) We also have time to go over what's coming up in the next week/month (holidays, changes in any visits/visitors etc)
6) We don't often have time to do a fun activity together right at the end of family meeting, so instead we've implemented a family board games night on Saturday evenings..
We've been doing family meetings since Myriam was two, and so they work really smoothly for us. In my next post, I'll go into detail with a family who tried putting them in place with teenagers!
If you want tips on how to put family meetings in place, Jane Nelsen explains the tool in detail on the Positive Discipline blog