Setting the Tone
In our home it is very important for our children to know that Dad and Mom are the authority. We tell the kids that God is in charge of us and He has given us the job of being in charge of them. We really do seek to honor the Lord in raising our kids.
One thing John and I have done since the kids were itty bitty (and I mean like 1 and 2 years old...the big kids are 17 months apart...I've always kind of felt I had twins :) is call a family meeting.
During the Family Meeting we would either share something really special that was about to happen (like the time we told Julia and Mark we were pregnant), or we would talk about how we would handle an issue that was about to arise (describe how we would sleep during Hurricane Sandy since we didn't feel safe having the kids in the upstairs bedrooms with all the trees in our backyard facing their windows) or we would discuss behavior good/bad or expectations. For example, if we were going to go on a date to NYC and the kids would be with the Grandparents for the day we would call a Family Meeting to discuss what kind of behavior we expected while we were away.
You may ask yourselves, "Where did you get the idea of the Family Meeting?" I would answer, "From the Cosby Show!" Seriously, Clare and Cliff had 5 beautiful children and they did an excellent job of holding their children accountable for their behavior, setting their expectations as parents, setting the tone of who the authority was in the home, and I always enjoyed that show because I always felt they were such great parents. John's Dad also called Family Meetings so we both were familiar with them and enjoy using them in our home.
Here is how it goes:
Call the Meeting to Order:
1. We announce to our kids where the Family Meeting will be and give them a 5 minute warning when it's about to happen. For example, "Mark and Julia, meet us in the living room, please sit on the couch, we are about to have a Family Meeting!" We keep the tone light (no matter if the meeting is for a happy occasion or not) and let them know exactly what we expect. They are always excited for the meetings and usually run to the spot where we tell them we are going to chat.
2. Dad usually speaks first, or if Mom is super passionate about the topic (behavior) sometimes Mom goes first. Dad is the head of the home, but since Mom is the one home most of the day, I am the one who usually sees a gamut of different behaviors more often. We find that addressing behavior as a team really helps because we don't want the kids to think one parent is the mean one and one is the softy. We really try to have a united front. I also like the kids to see that Dad does find out what goes on all day. I want them to know that nothing is kept from Daddy.
3. We try to start off positive and end positive even if we have to share something we are disappointed about. Let's say we have to address bad behavior in the car, we may start off by saying, "You know what guys, we are so blessed that God has allowed us to have a new van. Don't you like it? What do you like about it? Well, we've noticed that there has been a lot of fighting back and forth. What can you two do differently so we can get along in the car?"
Pray As A Family:
4. We usually end in prayer. Asking God to help us obey our parents and protect us from any harm, and help us to be kind to each other. This is a family that really seeks to put God first. Praying at the end of our meeting just reinforces that. We can't do anything right without the help of God. He is our strength. He is also the one we go to if we are afraid or concerned. This is a perfect time to model this to your kids. God cares about us and he hears our prayers and listens to us and He answers our prayers.
Become Closer As A Family:
5. It has brought us closer. I think by having Family Meetings we are showing our kids that we can talk things out. We are showing them that when something special happens we can celebrate it together. Having the Family Meeting about the pregnancy with Micah was SO exciting. We even videotaped it on the Ipad. I will never forget telling my 4 year old Julia and 3 year old Mark that we had a baby growing in my belly. Mark looked me straight in the face and shared, "I have a baby in my belly too!" Oh, how we laughed together. Family Meetings bring us closer because many times apologies are said to each other, and sometimes it's parent to child and sometimes it's child to parent or child to child. We want to model what it is like to say sorry, to forgive, to hug when you feel bad, or hold hands when you are scared. We even held a Family Meeting before going to the dentist because we knew Mark was so scared.
I hope this encourages any of you out there who do this already to keep it up. And if you've never had a family meeting, you can see how simple and easy they are, and really they are fun. Even the difficult meetings, (sometimes you have to do the meeting with only one child at a time if the behavior was just the one child) can really help you to understand the situation better and it gives you an opportunity to learn more about your child and to love on them.
Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.--Proverbs 22:6