“Let’s Have a Family Meeting!”

A family meeting is the best means of communication

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There are class meetings at school, and companies hold various kinds of meetings such as a team meeting and an executive conference. A meeting is natural and essential for operating an organization. A family is also an organization that forms society, and meetings are needed for mutual understanding and compromise.

When people are asked, “Do you hold a family meeting?” most of them say, “We hardly see each other,” “No, my child is still too young,” “What are we to talk about in a meeting?” “They just need to listen to what I say! We don’t need a meeting!” Like this, most people think that they don’t need a family meeting. Living a busy industrial life, parents are busy with work and children are busy with school. So it is hard to get together though most families don’t have many members. Even when they gather together, some leave in the middle of a meeting because they have nothing to say.

A family meeting is the first step to solve big and small problems that occur at home. It is also a means of communication for a closer relationship and harmony of the members. If you haven’t tried it yet, why don’t you give it a try? You may feel awkward at first, but as time goes by, you will look forward to the meeting time.

Good things about a family meeting

Even for family members, communication can be made when they share their honest thoughts with each other. So, a family meeting is a good opportunity to be honest and open their hearts. The bond among the members can become stronger as they get to know what kind of thoughts and feelings each person has. Also, as they believe that other members care about their thoughts and interests, they can feel more important.

In the family meeting, if they talk about what the parents used to decide unilaterally, the range of communication becomes wide. If they choose rules together and solve problems together, they feel that they are in the same boat. That way, they can have teamwork, and minimize discord between the members.

If having a family meeting becomes a routine, the children are given opportunities to express their thoughts. Then they become less rebellious, and they do not ask for unilateral requests by learning what are inappropriate reasons or requests. And they can learn how to listen to other people’s opinions and understand them. That way, they can have a habit of talking logically and organizing their thoughts.

The parents can raise the children more effectively by having a family meeting. Instead of cutting off the children’s requests, they can say, “Why don’t we talk about it when we have a family meeting?” “We have a good topic to talk about at the next meeting.” If the parents suggest the children’s request as a topic for the next meeting, they can avoid unnecessary conflicts, and prevent problems from getting bigger until the next meeting.

A mother who held a family meeting regularly said that she started a family meeting because she was tired of nagging her children and felt like she was growing apart from them. Finally, the family meeting enabled her to talk with her children instead of nagging them or rebuking them.

What should we talk about in a family meeting?

Before starting a family meeting, have some time to compliment each other on their good things or things that they are improving on, and share what you are thankful for. By doing so, you can boost your family’s morale and have a bright and lively mood.

The topic in the meeting can be anything as long as it is something that all the members can share. You can make some rules about sharing house chores such as taking out trash and cleaning the house, about what the members feel inconvenient about, or about what the members want to fix. You can also talk about family financial situations or any upcoming events such as birthday, national holidays, and exam. You may also gather some opinions to make a menu together. If you post the things to talk about on a spot where everybody has easy access to and give them time to think about the subject before the meeting, then the meeting can be smoother. Also, post what has been decided on the spot so that everybody can remember it.

If the family meeting becomes a time for judgment, conflicts may become rather serious. Therefore, avoid pointing out a member’s wrong deeds or criticizing. If you need to discipline a certain child, you’d better talk with him privately, not in the meeting.

A family meeting doesn’t have to be heavy. You can talk about many different things: what you would like to apologize about to another member, a good phrase you read in a book, some funny stories you heard from your friend, something that happened to you, a good story with wisdom of life and lessons, some issues in society, and more.

Sometimes, you can prepare a special time: reciting a poem, reminding yourselves of an old memory through an old picture, playing a game with the members, reading a letter for each other, or exchanging some small but meaningful gifts. If you create emotional bonds this way, the members will love one another all the more.

Try your family meeting this way

Many people feel burdened when they think about having a family meeting. However, a family meeting is not something grandiose but comfortable where all the members can talk. There is no fixed procedure, but generally, it begins with the opening of a meeting, and proceeds with suggesting a topic, discussion, and the closing. You can add whatever you want in-betweens. If the procedure is too strict, the meeting can turn out to be forceful; so it’d better be flexible, depending on the atmosphere. Here are a few tips for an effective family meeting.

1. All members join in the meeting

It is good to have a family meeting when everybody’s schedule is open. If you live with your son-in-law, or daughter-in-law, or parents-in-law, then let everybody join. If you have an infant or a toddler, it is better to do it when they are asleep. If any member doesn’t like attending the meeting,let him know good things about having a meeting and the outcome, so that he can join the next meeting.

2. Do it regularly

Do it regularly on certain dates, not only when it is necessary. Having it once a week is ideal. If you can’t do it the day you were supposed to do for an unavoidable reason, do it the day before or the day after that day, so that you can continue your meeting. Regard the family meeting as important as other appointments, so that it won’t be interrupted. If the TV is on, turn it off, and if you have to make a phone call, make it quick or postpone it.

3. Divide roles

Appoint a chairperson to lead the meeting and a secretary to take the minutes. Try to take turns. If it is the first time having a family meeting, or if the children are too young, it is good that the parents lead the meeting, but if the children are elementary school students or older, it is better to have them lead it.

4. Use honorifics

It is good to use honorifics during the meeting. If you use honorifics, you unconsciously become more careful as you respect the listeners. When you tell your family members something you want them to do, say, “It would be great if you could . . .” in the way they can hear a suggestion and hope so that the mood doesn’t become hardened.

5. Everybody has a chance to talk

In a family meeting, the parents tend to talk more and monopolize the meeting more than the children. It is better to give the children a chance to talk first, listen to their opinions, and then the parents have a chance to talk. If the children are hesitant, encourage them to talk when they are ready. The chairperson of the meeting should be considerate so that everybody can have a chance to talk.

6. Make a decision unanimously

The principle of democracy is majority rule. However, in a family meeting, it is better to have everybody’s agreement on a decision. It is because whoever has a different opinion may feel left out. If not everybody agrees with the decision, hold it until the next meeting to have time to think of a new idea. If the opinions still do not agree with each other, the parents should make a final decision and help the children understand it.

7. Make sure to put into practice what has been decided

When something has been decided, make sure to put it into practice, and decide some compensations or penalties. A penalty should be what can be helpful for other members and what the one who gets it can be happy to do. If the parents show an example of keeping the promise and rules, their children will follow their examples. If the parents make a certain promise but do not keep it, their children will take their parents’ words lightly.

8. Things to be careful about

  • Don’t insist on your own opinion only.
  • Don’t cut someone off when he is speaking, and don’t criticize him.
  • Avoid a tight plan.
  • Don’t give excessive pressure.
  • Don’t make the meeting too long. (An hour or less is ideal.)

A family meeting is meaningful in the sense that all the members gather and create harmony. Therefore, it doesn’t have to be at home. You can have a meeting when you eat out together or when you have a family picnic. You can also have it while driving a long way. Always clap or hug each other when you finish the meeting. This can help the members feel like they have achieved something.