14. Hold Weekly Family Meetings
Having weekly family meetings is an important key to creating a loving, respectful atmosphere in the home while helping children develop self-discipline, responsibility, cooperation and problem-solving skills.
One of the activities is solving problems with cooperation and mutual respect. Solutions must be agreed upon by consensus. A majority vote in a family meeting would accentuate a family division. Convey an attitude of faith in your family that you can work together to find unanimous solutions that are related, respectful, reasonable and helpful.
Planning weekly family fun activities and other events is an important part of family meetings. Family members are more willing to cooperate when they have participated equally in planning events they will all enjoy. Also discuss chores at a family meeting so that children can help solve the problems of getting them done. They are more cooperative when they can voice their feelings and be part of the planning and choosing.
Choose a chairperson. Children love to be the chairperson and can do a very good job after they reach the age of four or five. This job should rotate. The chairperson calls the meeting to order, starts the group sharing of compliments, begins the problem-solving sessions, and sends the "talking stick" around the circle, which gives everyone a turn to voice an opinion or make a suggestion.
The job of secretary should also rotate among members of the family who are able to write. The secretary keeps notes of problems discussed and decisions made. Family meetings should include a review of the next week's activities. This is especially important as the children grow older and become involved in many activities, such as babysitting, sports, dates, lessons and so on. Coordinating the calendar for car use and mutual convenience can be essential. Family meetings should not end without planning a family fun activity during the coming week.
End the meeting by doing something together as a family. You might want to play a game together, popcorn or take turns making and serving desserts. Do not watch TV unless there is a program that the whole family looks forward to. If you do watch a program, be sure to end by turning off the TV and having a family discussion about what values (or lack thereof) were portrayed, and how this might apply in your lives.
A Story from Kavita: The Peruman family had four children, ages 2, 4, 10 and 12. Family meetings were always getting interrupted by two-year-old Vijay. He would scream at the top of his lungs and throw toys at the table. The other siblings rolled their eyes as Mother spent most of the meeting time coping with him. Finally, Father asked them for ideas on what to do about Vijay. "Put him in his room!" "Let him cry," "Don't give him any dinner!" came the responses. Mr. Peruman asked them to calm down and think about why Vijay was acting up. Little Anjali (age four) surprised them all by saying, "He just wants to be like us." At that, the others sprang from their chairs, grabbed their little brother with hugs and kisses, put cushions on a big kitchen chair, and placed him there, with everyone, at the table. Enjoying his beaming smile, they gave him a pen and paper, like they each had, and told him to choose the next person to share, while he could take notes (scribbles). As the official co-chairperson at all family meetings, Vijay fit in perfectly.
Young Kishore and Chandi both look forward to family meetings as a time to be heard, to create new rules that improve life, enjoy the family and talk about any problems that occurred the previous week