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“Each family organization should include a family council comprised of all members of the family unit,” Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles says. “Here the basic responsibilities of the family organization can be taught to the children. They can learn how to make decisions and act upon those decisions.”
My parents raised me with family council meetings, but that doesn’t mean they were healthy for our family. Don’t get me wrong, I think my parents and my family were blessed for attempting the meetings, but our family councils often looked like family fights and left us really emotionally worn out. Admittedly, I was one of the main reasons those meetings took such a bad turn.
These days my strong-willed nature is perfect for helping me accomplish my goals and improve myself. But, my strong-willed nature used to be put to bad use when I was a teenager. Not only did I talk back to my parents far too often, but I did that talking back during our attempts at family council meetings. When Mom and Dad would call for the council meeting I would immediately dread the lectures and finger pointing that occurred in these meetings that took way too long. So, I spent my time attempting to hijack the meetings by pretending to sleep, not care, bother my siblings and just generally be grumpy.
You might not live with a family council antagonizer like me. But, just in case, I’d like to share what I now know about creating successful family council meetings. In fact, since my family has started having happy, productive family councils, about 20 years ago, people all over the world have asked me to teach them about how to better communicate as families. I teach self-government skills and principles, and a vital piece to a self-governing body is having regular councils, or meetings.
Family Meetings Are Essential to Self-Government
Since our family named our family council meeting, family meeting, then for the remainder of this article I will refer to council meetings as family meetings. Make your family meetings a high priority! Family meetings are at the core of our family’s Teaching Self-Government style of parenting because they:
- Unify the family
- Promote ownership of relationship bonds by each member of the family
- Set a precedent for calm discussion of family problems
- Promote accountability to the group and the Lord
- Remind the family that the family unit is more important than individual desires
- Create a meaningful tradition if done well
- Help the family be more deliberate and less emotional in their communications
- Maintain the family focus
- And are a lot of fun
- The whole family will also stay focused on their family government structure and enjoy more consistency in parenting interactions.
See what happens when you miss a few weeks of family meetings, the lack of family focus and lack of unity are noticeable. In my home it’s especially noticeable with Dad. He has less patience and focus as a parent when we miss our family meetings. Everyone stays more invested in family life when regular meetings are held.
At family meetings, every family member has equal voice on family issues. However, parents are still in charge of the home. Children don’t get to take control of the family. It’s not “Animal Farm.” Rather, it’s more like a board meeting. Each person has his or her position, but all come together to make sure that the group is running smoothly.
9 Family Meeting Rules
1. Prepare for and take notes during family meetings in a notebook or journal. We recommend using Teaching Self-Government’s Family Meeting Journal.
2. Never give negative consequences during a meeting. Simply say, “[NAME OF CHILD], you’ll need to stay after the meeting to talk to me for a few minutes.” This will keep your meeting running smoothly and prevent it from being side tracked. If someone is completely out of control during the meeting, then the meeting might have to be postponed and resumed after calmness is achieved.
3. Do not use this time to lay down the law or lecture the family. That behavior ruins the unity.
4. Decide how long your meetings will go and stick to it! The official Peck family meetings last for 20 minutes. This is probably the best way to stop family fights. Anyone can last 20 minutes. Of course, there are other unofficial family meetings and talks. A council can happen at any time. But, official ones are a good practice to have.
5. Make sure everyone takes a turn conducting meetings. This is great practice in self-government skills. This not only gives a feeling of unity to the family but also builds self-esteem in the child.
6. When bringing up a topic, don’t point fingers. Work as a group. Never work against any one person. The family must feel united and safe in these meetings. The person at fault knows he/she did it anyway, so there’s no need to draw negative attention to any one family member.
7. When suggesting a solution to a topic, teach the children that they also need to present a rationale for wanting that solution and a proposal for how to fix the family problem.
8. Teach proper voting skills and strive to be fair.
9. Lastly, keep a family meeting list of ideas to be discussed so that ideas for meetings are not forgotten when they are brought up days away from the scheduled family meeting.
Regular family meetings are vital for keeping your family happy and united. They increase communication, family productivity, help solve issues, put the family focus on the group, promote kindness and charity, and teach your children important life skills.
Our Family Meeting Journal is an integrated part of the Teaching Self-Government family system. Writing in the journal to prepare for and take notes during family meetings will help keep you on track to creating a more united family. Click here to order one for your family.