Radical Family Meetings

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One of the 10 principles for radical parents and families is to have monthly family meetings or check-ins.  I family meetings are crucial because:

-Keep communication open

-Stay updated on every family member’s needs

-Take a moment and look back at what has happened in the past month for your family

-Make the next month better!

How to Implement Your Family Meetings:

1) Announce that you would like to have family meetings once per month.  This will probably be met with groans and mumbles.  That is why it is good to make it convenient for them…

2) Find a good space and time. Tell them you do not want to take away from homework time or social time, but this is where they can officially petition for rule changes and you can decide on some exciting new things together.  Figure out a mutually good time (I find Sunday afternoons before dinner usually work well) and place (living room, den, backyard…).

3) Regular agenda. I find teens and kids will be less opposed to the idea if there is a regular agenda and they know what to expect (and that the meeting will not continue for three hours).  Every radical family meeting should include:

-Announcements and Check-in

-Review of Goals

-Complaints and grievances?

-Kudos and Rewards

-Goals for next month

4) Announcements and Check-in. The meeting should start off with everyone going around and saying if they have any announcements, and a time for them to reflect about their month.

**One of the major parts of family-check-ins is teaching kids to be able to reflect on what is going on for them. This helps them check-in with themselves, be grateful and appreciate the moment.**

If you have a teen or child who insists that “there are no announcements or updates and the month was ‘fine’” then I would build in discussion points.  Like having everyone rate their month from 1-5 and telling the high point, the low point and a random fact…this gives them something to focus on.

5) Goals.  This is a really important part of family meetings.  Teaching kids how to make goals is an important skill.  I think the family can also have goals.  When you do review of goals, the family should have one goal together and each member should have their own goal.  When going around each person should talk about their goal and their progress on it.

-Great examples of goals are “Getting an A on the chemistry test in two weeks”

“Not eating sugar for the month.”

“Getting the personal essay done for my college applications.”

“Always getting ready on time and not being late for the bus for a whole month.”

At the beginning of the meeting review these goals and at the end of the meeting everyone should review their goals for next month.

6) Complaints and Grievances.

This is an essential part of the meeting.  This can be difficult to hear, but it is important to teach your kids how to exercise their anger or frustration in a constructive and helpful way.  Go around in a circle and have people bring up issues, or events that have upset or bothered them in the last month.  Then it is important for all family members to talk them through and see how it would be better for next month.  In my family, it went something like this:

Brother: “I am upset because I feel like I am two years older than Vanessa, but she still gets to go to bed at the same time as me.  I did not have that when I was her age.”

Mom: “Ok, what time did you go to bed when you were her age? And what time would you like to go to bed? Vanessa would you be upset about going to be 30 minutes earlier?”

Vanessa: “Yes! I do not want to go to bed at 10:30, I need my 11pm bedtime for homework.”

Mom: “ I do not think it is fair to lessen Vanessa’s bedtime after she has already had 11pm and I think 11:30pm is too late for you.”

Dad: “How about you can stay up to 11pm only if you are reading or doing homework. Robert can stay up until 11pm, but he can watch TV before bed because he is older.”

This compromise really helped everyone feel heard and avoided fights at 10:30pm at night when my brother thought it was unfair that I was staying up.

7) Kudos and Rewards. This was my favorite part of family meetings! This is when everyone goes around and has to give someone a kudos for something, like picking up laundry, making curfew or maintaining their goal. Rewards are usually dolled out by parents and this depends on the family.  Sometimes this was all going out for donuts after the meeting, sometimes this is when my parents would announce a family vacation this summer.

8) Notes.  I highly recommend someone taking notes.  If you have an organized kid, have them do it! I think it is good because it makes it easier to track goals for the next time (people sometimes forget the goals they make) and they make great keepsakes.  I have looked at our old family meeting agendas and notes to write this article and it brought back some great memories of that time period….its like a family journal!

9) Stay consistent. If you are going to do this, do it well! Do it every month no matter what (we have done them in airports) and make sure to stick to the agenda.  Make sure everyone participates and set a good example with your goals.

10) Make your tweeks. If you are going to make new rules and you have had trouble keeping them in the past, consider:

-Parent kid contracts

-A family bulletin board.

-Email alerts and reminders and program them in together.

-Talking stick.  If you have a loud family, have a talking stick so no one can talk over each other.

-Start your meeting with a silly question, conversation starter or ice-breaker.  Here is a List of Family Bonding Activities.

Again, every person is different, make family meetings personalized to your family.  This is a great way to maintain close bonds and communication with family members.

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