Family Meetings That Work


One of the great ways to handle the chaos and stress that can come with scheduling school, extra-curricular activities and family responsibilities is to have regular family meetings. School is less than a month away and this is a good time to start doing the planning to organize your upcoming busy schedule.

What are family meetings and how do they work?

Are you Organized

Fall is just around the corner and one of the big challenges is getting the family organized.

When fourteen-year old Kendra has band practice and twelve-year-old Cody has a swimming lesson on the same night and at the same time, you want to be calm and collected. You have a plan in place.

On the weekend when Kendra is going to be marching in a parade and needs to get across town for 8 am and Cody has to be on a soccer field at 8:30 and you’ll have the rides organized. No yelling, scurrying, name-calling and blaming, right?

No? Well, let’s solve the chaos that can come from trying to coordinate the conflicting schedules from today’s busy family members.

The trick is regular family meetings. We have all watched a scene in some family sit-com or other in which there is a problem and someone, usually a parent, yells, “Get down here, we’re going to have a family meeting!” Cue laugh track and you just know someone is going to get into big trouble. So who would ever want a family meeting?

This is very different from the idea that family meetings only happen occasionally. I recommend family meetings as a way to get organized. You can use family meetings to plan the week including all scheduled events, to organize fun events such as birthday parties or family outings and yes, to also deal with conflict.

Now is a great time to get started so that once the busy times of September are a reality you already have a plan in place.

In terms of your kid’s activities you may need to discuss how they’re each going to get to band practice and swimming, whether there’s a car pool arranged and when you’ll have dinner on that busy night? Also on the agenda is chores. Who’ll do what and when? The more you plan (and yes I am one of those planning freaks) the calmer things will be around the house. And, as a bonus, your children will learn to start thinking ahead. If they need a ride to an activity, they will talk about it at the meeting instead of three minutes before they need to leave the house. And this planning will start to be part of their lives. Not bad eh? They may even end up actually organizing class projects or studying for exams.

There are some considerations in order to have successful family meetings.

A regular time; weekly is normally best. This way it’s not a question of calling a meeting because someone is upset, confused or overwhelmed. It’s a typical thing, it just happens.

Make all participants equal. This does not mean voting. It does mean that all members have equal opportunity to introduce topics and to speak. Decisions are reached by consensus. If there is no option (a non-negotiable family rule) children can express their opinions but must know that this is a non-negotiable item. An example of this might be drinking and driving or more prosaically, being rude to another family member.

Rotate the chairmanship. Children not only enjoy having a turn to chair, they will also learn about meeting procedures and rules.

Build an agenda. An agenda will keep you on track and organized (remember organization is one of the goals of this activity!). It’s a great idea to build the agenda during the week. So when Duncan comes to you to talk about going to a volleyball meet, you suggest he add it to the agenda. The agenda is posted in a public place, like on the fridge, so kids can access it easily.

Another aspect of a good agenda is timing. Decide ahead of time the length of the meeting. If you determine it will last thirty minutes, the children know exactly when they can leave. If you haven’t covered all items by then either get permission from the whole group to continue or hold some items over until the next week.

Take minutes. A written record of decisions solves disputes and permits a follow-up evaluation. Oh and a real bonus. Years later, these minutes are a priceless reminder of the growth of your family. Our books are as interesting as our photo albums.

Have a follow-up time for evaluation. It is very important for everyone to know exactly when a decision can be re-evaluated and changed if necessary.

Finally, family meetings are not a time for parents to dump on the children! Have fun, lighten up, do some planning and enjoy the time together as a family.

Are all four-year-olds alike?  Absolutely not!

Sarah is shy, Jared is bossy and Pat is easy-going. What do we need to know about different temperaments?

Every child is unique and different.  My mini guide e-book, Vive la Différence: Raising Children with Different Temperaments addresses some of the temperaments we see in our kids.

I looked at my two children who are as different as night and day. Then I consider my siblings and we are a textbook example of different.

But, now I have three grandchildren, all the same age and the differences from their births has been striking.

The result is the e-parenting mini guide, Vive la Différence: Raising Children with Different Temperaments. The guide is available on my website,

How Can I Bring Kathy to My Community?

I offer keynotes and workshops, have written books and have ongoing newspaper columns, books, blogs and newsletters.

And, no matter what the actual topic, they all share a basic value that I call:

P.U.R.E. Parenting.

P — is a parenting plan

U — is unconditional love

R — is respect for your child as he is right now

E — is encouragement

I look forward to working with you for your professional development, workplace wellness or parenting education event.



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