As with so many families – our morning “routine” was THE. PITS. I was completely stressed out, overwhelmed, and saying things like “I HATE MORNINGS!” The hustle and bustle of the morning routine was destroying the family connection that we had built over the past five years.
Yet, even though I felt frustrated and completely disconnected from my boys, both boys agreed that mornings were, “working for me mommy.” How was that even possible?????? I can’t tell you how many days in a row my older son was late for school. Ummmmm… How many days has he been in school this semester? I’ll let you make your own assumptions. And if I had a penny for each time I asked somebody to put on their socks and shoes…
We had tried everything. And these great ideas would work for maybe a day. They just weren’t working consistently.
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While I can’t wait to hear your comments on these ideas, before you comment with suggestions like “make a chart,” “let them check their tasks off the chart,” “make it a game,” “see if both boys will help one another,” or a million other things that I’ve already tried, I can save you the trouble. I’ve already tried.
Family Connection Requires “Buy In” From Everyone
I needed a system that we were each personally invested in creating and following. It had to come from the “bottom” of our family structure and percolate upwards – towards “management.”
Last year, I started reading The Secrets of Happy Families: Improve Your Mornings, Tell Your Family History, Fight Smarter, Go Out and Play, and Much More by Bruce Feiler. At the time, I didn’t finish – but I loved what I was reading, loved the way he was using agile programming with families and I knew I’d come back to it.
Feiler was seeking out the “smartest solutions and the most cutting edge research about families.” And here was the most brilliant part: he wasn’t going to the usual suspects. No way. He “sought out the most creative minds from Silicone Valley to the set of Modern Family, from the country’s top negotiators to the Green Berets – and asked them what team building exercises and problem-solving techniques they use with their families.”
This is my kind of guy. Solution oriented. Green Berets – for family advice? Brilliance.
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Maintaining Our Family Connection Make Us Feel Like A Team
Team building exercises – that’s what I want is for our family connection to make us feel like we are always a team!!! Feiler has a wonderful TED talk about happy families that you may want to watch. After reading and watching, I wanted to use these revelations about holding a family meeting. Below, Feiler gives a quick tip for getting children invested in a family meeting.
Creating a team feels consistent with my value of intentional parenting, and so I loved this idea of creating family connection through a family meeting!
Our First Family Meeting Brought Family Connection!
Feiler suggests the following three questions for a twenty-minute family meeting each week:
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 started our family meeting by explaining what I thought was working with our morning routine (that didn’t take long…) and then I went on to talk about what was troubling me in the mornings. I asked everyone for their input and help. We kept it super simple.
There was one rule. We all had to practice our very best listening. We were listening to understand – not to prepare a response.
*As a side note, if you have a child who struggles with a morning routine due to anxiety, I suggest that you check out The 50 Best Stories and Strategies to Help Children of All Ages Conquer Anxiety before having your family meeting so that you can be prepared to address those concerns when appropriate.
The proposed solutions all came from the boys. The meeting was short and came down to two rules: 1. NO complaining in the mornings; and 2. NO playing with anything until you are completely ready for school. That was it. Two sentences. Two rules – rules that the boys had come up with on their own!
Did It Work?
We had quick reminders on Sunday night about the two rules that we would use in the morning. Upon waking, we reminded them of the rules one more time. When we were ready to leave 15 minutes early, I sent them outside and they got extra playtime with the puppy. Everyone was crazy happy. It was like waking up in somebody else’s house.
Our first official family meeting was not overly structured, but it still worked. I’m sure we will have plenty family meetings along the way that don’t – but we’re moving towards something really great!
*One other side note, depending on the age of your children, tweens and teens can throw some unexpected doozies into the family meeting. If you’re caught off guard or unsure of how to handle something that comes up, you need to know that You Only Need One Powerful Phrase To Transform Any Awkward Conversations With Your Tween.
How Do Family Meetings Strengthen Family Connection?
As I’ve continued to read and learn more about these types of meetings, it turns out that they are the elixir of happy, successful people, business teams, and families everywhere for many, many reasons.
Family meetings have been shown to be helpful in many more ways than just smoothing out your morning routine. Family meetings can:
- Build children’s self-esteem;
- Teach children that family members are interdependent, that they are all connected, and what each person does can have an effect on everyone else;
- Teach skills such as compromise, openness to other’s ideas and cooperation;
- Help children deal effectively with problems they encounter in other situations and social settings;
- Increase family closeness because children are more likely to identify with the family;
- Teach responsibility by sharing in family decision-making and solving family problems;
- Increase perspective of the whole group and ability to think of what is good for the family as a whole, not just themselves;
- Counterbalance the hectic lives that today’s parents and children lead; the technological distractions of the computer and video games, the extra-curricular activities, school and work pressures all pull family members in different directions;
- Ground families and encourage connections and identity. They can send a message that family time is important and is a priority in your family;
- Provide a way for conflicts to be addressed and problems resolved in a way that feels fair to everyone;
- Allow children to examine situations, propose solutions, evaluate results with guidance, support and demonstrations from you and their older siblings;
- Teach children that they are capable of finding solutions to problems;
- Provide the opportunity for information to be shared equally with everyone.
I know as the boys get older, the structure of our family meeting will continue to be a work in progress as we have more and more meetings. But this time, the boys were sufficiently empathetic with my
frustration unraveling that they were willing to try anything.
We agreed to reconvene for a second family meeting in one week to see how our ideas were working. Within a week, both boys commented that our new ideas from our family meeting were amazing! My older son LOVED getting to school on time. Every. Day. This. Week. BAM!
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