Family Meetings

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Dear Jane,
I have a question about family meetings. We have just started them at our home and already are pleased and having fun with the results. We have a family of four; my husband, myself and two daughters 7 and 5. My five year old has been reluctant to sit in the entire meeting unless we are talking about something that is important to her (getting a pet snake). She gets up and sits nearby, but not at the table when we talk about other things. So she hears the whole meeting. Although she participates readily in our decisions, she is marginally participating in making them with us. It is her turn next to lead the meeting. My husband doesn't think she is ready to, but I think she should have her turn. I think she is just getting used to the idea of these meetings. She may be leveraging her power by not participating or she may be a little nervous about the whole thing yet. But the rest of us don't want to go on without her being part of our "unanimous" decisions. Suggestions???

Thanks, Laureen


Hi Laureen,

I'm so glad you are enjoying family meetings. In my opinion, family meetings are one of the most important activities parents can schedule because it teaches children so many valuable like skills. I have a few suggestions:

  1. Put this problem on the agenda and let everyone brainstorm for solutions. My guess is that she might enjoy this. Then choose a solution that works for everyone.
  2. Have a job for everyone at every family meeting. Such as:
    1. Someone to start passing the "talking stick" (or whatever you use) around the circle when it is compliment time and brainstorming time. The talking stick will always end with that person, who will then start it again for the next subject.
    2. Someone to make a signal whenever anyone talks out of turn (when they don't have the talking stick). This person can decide what the signal will be each time.
    3. Someone to write down the suggestions. (When children are too young to write, they can ask someone else to be their transcriber while they dictate (repeat) every suggestion.
    4. Someone who leads the meetings (Calls for compliments, reads the things on the agenda that need to be discussed and solved.)
    5. A time keeper葉o let people know when the time is up (after you decide on how much time you will take.
    6. Someone to serve the snack at the end of the meeting.

You may think of other jobs. Let family members know that the jobs will rotate every week.

I do believe she is old enough to lead the meeting. She can just ask for help and assign people to do the things she can't do yet.

Be sure to keep the family meetings short in the beginning蓉ntil the kids want them to go longer.

I would love to hear stories about your successes. I'm thinking of creating a book where people share their Positive Discipline Success Stories.

Best wishes,

Jane Nelsen


Dear Jane,

Thank you so much for this reply. We did have Marie, our five year old, lead the family meeting and she did a great job! Since, she has stayed through each subsequent meeting and gives her two cents worth! It's been great to see. She was even secretary once having her sister do the writing. Next I do plan on having someone make a talking stick or the like. That will help a lot!

When we started these meetings my husband and I were trying to find a way to help with "issues" around the house...clutter, arguing, getting up at meal time. We have been able to address these things and someone in the family always has an idea to try to help and it's not always Mom and Dad (what a relief). For example, we were getting frustrated with everyone getting up from dinner to get something extra that eventually no one seemed to be at the table.

Well, my oldest daughter had just gone to Girl Scout camp and she told us they had a "hopper" at each meal to take care of the same problem. Well, now we have a "hopper" at each family meal and it is great!


Here is another interesting take. The topic of children arguing was on the agenda. Mom and Dad wanted to have less arguing. Even though my husband and I agree they don't argue a lot, we wanted to see more manners injected into the interactions. The girls agreed and came up with a plan and have been working on it. Then they put Mom and Dad arguing on the agenda! They said they don't like it when we argue as well. So now we have to put $5 in a jar if we have a disagreement that is not civil and it goes toward our family vacation. No money in the jar so far!

Well, what we have found at these meetings is that not only "issues" get discussed but lots of more fun things as well. We talk about where to go on the next family vacation; how to set up our parent/daughter date nights; holiday traditions we want to start or keep. I'm sold on these! And I can only see how in the coming years...this could be a life sanity saver.

Thanks again,



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