As many of you know, a couple weeks ago I hit a breaking point. The peace in our home was quickly deminishing. It started with me confessing that I Yell. After deciding to do something about my yelling, my family decided to join in too, by starting our very own Peaceful Home Challenge. The first week did not go as well as we had hoped but it was the first building block. This week, I want to share what we how we have been using a nightly Family Meeting to build a peaceful home, one day at a time.
As a preschool teacher, I was introduced to the concept of class meetings. After using them consistently in my classrooms from preschool to first grade, I became a fan.
What are Class meetings?
Class Meetings are a time when the entire community comes together to discuss classroom issues and build relationships between your students. It is a time where the teacher is a facilitator and the students are in charge of the discussions and the problem solving.
What is a Family Meeting?
Similar to a class meeting, family meetings are meant to be a starting point for conversations and connections. They are a way to directly teach the skills children (and parents) need to communicate. Over the years, I have tried to bring home the idea of family meetings here and there. My children knew the term and they connected it to a problem in the house. But I was inconsistent. I didn’t follow a format or a set time to do family meeting.
Tip: Pick a Consistent Time for Family Meeting Daily or Weekly
Our new routine is to conduct our family meetings at dinner time. They are not the only conversation happening at dinner, but our family meetings take priority after discussing our highlights of our day. For us, nightly works much better as a way to have family meetings even on positive days when the problems are small or something of the past.
How Do You Get Started With Family Meetings?
Getting started can be daunting and scary if you have never set aside specific time for something like this with your family. Like I said, I had introduced the idea to my family over the years but we never followed any format, nor did we have any set guidelines for conducting our meetings.
Tip: Don’t expect the “perfect” family meeting at first.
Family meetings aren’t magic. The first meeting might not go well. The second might be even worse. You might be ready to give up after the first week. Or, it could be the most beautiful thing your family has ever seen. If you have read about our first week of the challenge, you know that family meetings don’t cure everything, but they are a start.
Our first family meeting was very simple. I introduced the idea to the family. Asked for their thoughts and made sure it was something they were interested in.
Getting Started with Family Meetings in Our House:
Day One: Introduce the Idea of Family Meetings and Conversation Rules
Day Two: Introduce Compliments, practice taking turns talking
Day Three: Adult led Family Meeting (I was the one doing most of the talking… “now we do this…”
Day Four: Our First Official Family Meeting (It helps if a Real Problem has occurred to discuss)
Day Five: We were on our way to daily Family Meetings (still a tad rocky though)
What Does a Family Meeting Look Like?
We follow a simple format that works for our family. I have included a printable Family Meeting Template that you could laminate and hang on the refrigerator if it would help you get started with family meetings in your home.
Step One: Compliments
I ask each person to think of a compliment for someone else in the family. How did someone else help us have a peaceful home?
I ask the boys to give me a thumbs up on the table when they are ready. (they love this part)
We go around the table and share our compliments
Tip: Giving compliments is a difficult tasks for younger children and takes time and consistent modeling by the parents
Step Two: Present a Problem
At first, I presented the problems to the family. It was very hard for the boys to come up with this as first.
Today I noticed….
I see us getting upset when….
As time has gone on, the children have gotten better at recognizing problems to bring up. Just last night, Bones said “I think we need to discuss a problem. The other day Legoman said I wasn’t a tiny jerk, but that I was a big jerk.” Yep, that seems like a problem we should discuss.
Step Three: Create 3 Possible Solutions
When deciding on solutions, we focus on what “We (the person hurt)” can do the next time the problem happens. The problems are our triggers that might cause us to yell, so we are trying to learn ways to handle our problems without yelling.
Talking about solutions to our problems is something we do a lot in our house. Because of Legoman’s explosive personality, we are constantly working to teach all of us ways to deal with our anxieties and frustrations in a better way than exploding.
If this is not something you already discuss, this part might take some time. You might need to provide solutions in the beginning if you notice your children are giving you blank stares (we still get them, its okay.)
Tip: Problems won’t be solved over night, but now you have a starting point for discussion.
Step Four: Act it Out
This is one of the boys favorite parts of the evening. We pretend like the problem is happening. Each person takes a turn being the one that is hurt and the one being hurtful. This really solidifies what we have talked about, enables the children to take part actively, and make our discussion concrete.
Weekly Peaceful Home Update:
This week was a good week, but it wasn’t easy. I was in a funk all week. We were stuck in side and the boys continued to bicker with each other. Most of our days teetered around everyone being at a level 2, but none of us yelled. Not me, not papa, not Legoman, not Bones, not Super B (okay, but she is 9 months old). We are going on our 6th day with No Yelling from anyone in the house, and hoping to make it to our first full week soon.
I have to say yesterday was one of the most peaceful days we have had around here in a long time. It was a transition day from Mr. X, and we still were able to remain calm. Last night at dinner, Legoman said “Hey guys, today was great. I don’t think anyone even got to a Level One. It felt good.”
The second building block in our home is our Family Meeting. It is helping us build a peaceful home, one day at a time.
How are things feeling in your home? Do you feel a peace or do you feel like there is a struggle going on and you don’t know what to do? How do you help your family remain at peace? I would love to know.
More Peaceful Home Resources