Thursday, March 7, 2013
'Til We Meet Again
The more I thought about it, the more I realized that it's not just me (well, my reaction is me, but the idea is not totally me); it's us all together. It's how we communicate, the understanding we have between one another, and everything else on top of us all trying to be our own person. It was then that I came across an article about Family Meetings. And, I remembered back to when I first met my husband. He told me that he would occasionally have Family Meetings with his parents, and he turned out a pretty well put together man. So, after discussing it with him, we figured we'd attempt to make meetings a regular thing with our own family.
Family Meetings are the obvious...when a family gets together to have meetings. It's not talking when you just happen to be in the car driving down the road together or when you sit down to dinner together; it's when you sit down together, on purpose, to discuss family praises and issues. So, after a little research, here's what we've come up with to get us started:
Set a date and time to meet every single week...the same date/time every week. Things are bound to come up on occasion; but for the most part, this will be a firm meeting date/time. This will be a very important aspect of how our family functions together, so it's not something to put on the back burner or overlook. The allotted time will be about 30 minutes.
FIRST THINGS FIRST
Turn off the TV, cell phones, and any other electronic device and/or thing that might possibly interrupt our special time. Put up toys and any other distraction.
One article recommended to leave children under age 4 out of the meeting...aka, have the meeting after he/she goes to bed. We have a hard time even thinking about having a special family time and not having ALL family members present. We understand that since Bubby is only about 2 years old, he could put a little frustration into the meeting; but, he's part of the family too. It's like taking a young child to church...you're not sure how much they're getting out of it, but you take them anyway, because you want them to learn the importance of it all. We want Bubby to be a part of our meetings so that he knows that time is special to us.
Pick out a special stuffed animal or item that can be held by the person speaking. We're electing to use this method in an effort to prevent outbursts, arguing, etc. We want to keep it orderly so that we can get through things quickly without uproar. It also ensures that each person actually gets a chance to speak. Yes, Bubby will get his turn :)
God should always be part of every aspect of our lives; so, prayer is a fabulous way to begin our Family Meeting. With faith, nothing is impossible - Matthew 17:20 :) Even at the dinner table, when we pray as a family, we hold hands. This is something that we've taught both of our children as soon as they were old enough to understand. Bubby is almost two, and he's gotten quite a kick out of it for a while now. We feel like the small gesture of hand-holding brings a special bond to praying as a family.
Every person will take turns saying something nice about each of the other family members. Saying something positive about one another and/or saying something that was appreciated can really be a good start to a meeting where "issues" will be discussed. We think it's a good chance to show every family member how important they are to everyone else in the room.
Most of the articles I read kept calling this part "issues" or "problems". Even though I know this process is a positive step for our family, I couldn't help but feel like those words still made the topic seem negative. So, we're going to call them "challenges", as one article put it.
There were lots of suggestions for this part, but we narrowed it down to three: keep it short, manage it in a way where no one is accused/wrong, and focus on brainstorming solutions that work for everyone.
One article suggested keeping a white board in an area where it's visible to everyone throughout the day (like in the kitchen or living room). As the day "happens", any challenges can be written on the white board to be discussed at the next family meeting. Prior to giving a description of the meeting, this won't be helpful; but, after the first meeting, this could be very helpful. In very frustrating or heated situations, writing the challenge down on the whiteboard until the next meeting could be a great way to allow everyone to "cool off" so that it can be discussed in a calm manner with clear thoughts. And, it will help us to remember important topics.
Under the circumstance where a consensus can't be reached, it will have to be Mom and Dad's decision until a better plan, of which works for everyone, can be reached. And, remember that the person speaking must be holding the special stuffed animal or item.
For younger children, it might also seem a bit overwhelming to throw a bunch of challenges at them in one meeting; so, it might be a good idea to only discuss 2-3 challenges per meeting. I would recommend going with the ones that seem the most pressing at the time; however, keep in mind that you want the children to know they are important here, so discussing challenges that they feel are important is essential as well.
UNTIL NEXT TIME
We want the children to come away from our meetings with positive attitudes, so ending on a positive note is important to us. We plan to allow each person to mention one thing that he/she looks forward to in the upcoming week...something positive that might be going on within the family.
I will be responsible for reminding everyone of things on our family calendar (appointments, household responsibilities, etc.) that need to be completed during the upcoming week. This will just be a really quick run through, as a reminder to everyone, so that it doesn't overpower all of the good feelings created in the "until next time" portion of our meeting. Any logistics that need to be discussed about something that is brought up will have to wait until next time or Mom and Dad will have to work it out beforehand, depending on the urgency of a solution.
None of the articles suggested this, but I feel like it's also an important part of the process. We should thank God for allowing us that time to get together, for allowing us to work together effectively, etc. It's through Him that we can "move mountains", so prayer at the close is important.
So, this is our plan. Our start date will most likely be Sunday, because it's a good start to the week ahead. Plus, it's about the only time we have "down time". Our children are still very young, so I understand that our family challenges won't necessarily be eliminated, and none of us are perfect, so there will definitely be times when we fail to meet our goals; but, I feel like the process will still help us to be a better unit...to be closer as a family.
I welcome any thoughts and/or suggestions on the process. What does your family do to resolve challenges?
Parents Magazine - March 2013 - article by Francesca Castagnoli
Aha! Parenting.com - Dr. Laura Markham
LOL...wow, did that NOT go as we planned! Does it ever when you have kids though? Bubby "wollered" us, tried to be mischievous, attacked LaLo, etc. the whole time. But, I still think he should be part of the group. I know he was anxious to play with Lalo, seeing as how he had just sat through a family movie. Lalo wasn't very responsive during her turns to talk, but she's only 5 years old, plus this was new to her. I'm sure she'll have more to say next time.
I did enjoy the praises part, because besides "I love you", Phillip and I don't often have a chance to say positive, uplifting things to one another. It was nice to hear those good words of appreciation :) It felt good to tell my family positive, encouraging things as well...things I don't feel we do enough.
We discussed the subject of "listening" for our challenge. We talked about giving one another our full attention, being responsive, and caring more about what one another says.
We're doing the whiteboard in the kitchen thing. Lalo has already put something on it. Her church shoes flip flop, and she doesn't like it; so, we're going to discuss that at the next meeting ;)
Anyway, overall, it was a good first run. I look forward to many more of these. One of things I fear most about our children turning into teenagers is that a disconnection might occur, without our realizing it. My hope is that continuous weekly meetings will help us stay a close family unit...always having our feelings and cares out in the open. 'Til we meet again...
Did you try a Family Meeting this past week? If not, are you going to try it? If so, how did it go?
This family meeting went much, much smoother. Several things:
We gave Bubby something to do while we talked, so he wasn't as much of a distraction. However, he did quite enjoy the throwing the plush toy around (to those whose turn it was to speak).
We felt like Lalo was responsive this past week to Listening, our challenge for this past week. And, it was nice to be able to say, "remember what we talked about in our family meeting...?", when we would have issues with the subject.
Our praises this week included Bubby beginning to say a lot of new words and sounding them out more clearly, Lalo doing well with our challenge this past week, Phillip helping me with Lalo (who is currently sick) and washing dishes for me, and me taking good care of both children.
We discussed the challenges of Lalo's church shoes being too flip-floppy (her "pin" on the whiteboard ;) ), being more polite to one another, and continuing with listening.
We have much to do this week, seems like. It seems as if Lalo might have the flu, and her temperature is gradually elevating, so Phillip will be calling the doctor first thing in the morning to try to get us an appointment...just to make sure it's not some kind of infection.
Tuesday is drop-off day at consignment. We LOVE seasonal consignment! We participate in the His Kids Consignment Sale (www.hiskidsconsignmentsale.com). Everything is tagged and ready to go...we just have to get our things there now.
Wednesday, Nannie and Papaw are heading our direction, to watch the kiddos, while I venture out to the consignment sale to shop the pre-sale (a perk of consigning). Lalo is in need of some Capri's (in lieu of the immodest short shorts that most stores sale now), Bubby needs some dress shoes for church, and I'll see if there are any bargains on other clothes while there :)
Thursday is Phillip's last basketball game of the "season" at his place of employment. In an effort to promote healthy lifestyles, his employer encouraged the creation of basketball teams (filled with employees) and thus a competition between the teams. The game is on his lunch. We were hoping to watch, but it depends on if Lalo is better by then. Playoffs are next week and he thinks his team might make it....go Daddy-O!
Friday is probably the only down day, and Saturday is Ladies Night. The ladies of our church get together to have dinner, play Bunco, and just spend time with one another.
Lalo was sick, but we had given her Tylenol (to bring her fever down temporarily), so she was up to doing the meeting. We are determined to not let anything stop us on this, so I'm glad we didn't see that as a stumbling block. We are one more meeting closer to more loving and respectful relationships within our family :)