How To Have an Annual Family General Meeting

by | Aug 13, 2021 | Uncategorized | 6 comments

How to Host an Annual Family General Meeting
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Want to help your kids feel cared for, listened to, included?

And want to help them understand more what goes into running the family?

Welcome to the Annual Family General Meeting!

For many of you in the U.S., school is just starting up again (those of us in Canada are saner and we don’t go back until after Labour Day). And I don’t even think it’s a holiday for those from Australia/New Zealand at all!

But for most of us, the school year is starting up again, which makes it a great time of year to sit down with your kids and do some planning.

Talk about vacations, about extracurricular activities, about chores, about schedules, about any big decisions.

Yesterday on the podcast parenting coach Brett Ullman was talking about his awesome book Parenting: Navigating Everything. The book is a huge resource covering all that you need to build a close relationship with your kids as they’re growing up. I love Brett’s heart for helping parents build those relationships so that it becomes much easier to navigate the teen years, when kids can get into hot water.

One of the things that jumped out at me in his book, that was such a quick and practical thing any parent can put into practice right now–but can also have great dividends–is the idea of the Annual Family General Meeting. Brett explained it  yesterday, and I encourage you to listen to the podcast. But I thought I’d write more about it here, too, for those of you who like to read!

The Benefits of Family Meetings

  1. Children are more likely to comply to household rules when they have a say in establishing them.
  2. When children feel heard and their contributions are valued, htey’re generally more co-operative.
  3. Family meetings are a type of team-building exercise that helps families bond and improves relationships.
  4. Meetings teach children critical problem-solving abilities; which research proves is an important life skill that contributes to a child’s resiliency.
  5. Your house will operate more smoothly as you solve family problems together rather than treating all issues as disciplinary in nature.
Adapted from Alyson Schafer "Family Meetings 101"

Parenting: Navigating Everything

How do you run a family meeting?

  1. Pick a time and make sure everyone keeps that time free and that there’s an expectation this will happen.
  2. Decide on a family reward for finishing the family meeting and the planning–like kids choosing a restaurant, or going bowling, or some other fun activity
  3. Create an agenda and leave it on the fridge so that kids can add items to it (like “I want a dog!”)
  4. Stick to the agenda during the meeting and let everyone talk
  5. As much as possible, let the kids’ votes count as much as the adults’. 

Here’s how Brett reports how family meetings benefited when it came to decisions about pets:

Five years ago, we made the major decision to give our kids the chance to get a dog. The kids had added this item to the meeting agenda for several years before everyone in the family agreed to do it!

This decision required everyone to be all-in. Ben was the first one willing to put in the work required, but both kids needed to understand that getting a dog would have lasting financial and practical impacts on the family. It would require them to walk the dog in all sorts of weather and clean up poop in the backyard.

My wife and I decided to see how they handled dog-sitting, to give us an idea of whether they understood the not-so-fun parts of having a dog. After they showed responsibility in dog-sitting, we were ready to vote yes at the next family meeting.

Bailey, our English bulldog, has been part of the family for many years now. Her care is divided between all of us without argument because we’ve all agreed to share in her care. However, at times we may notice that Bailey isnt’ getting walked and then we bring up the agreement. We find that the kids then step up, likely because they agreed to this arrangement in the first place; it wasn’t placed upon them.

Brett Ullman

Parenting: Navigating Everything

And you can talk about ANYTHING at family meetings!

  • Where are you going on your next vacation? What does our family schedule look like this year? How are we doing with chores?
  • Is there a dynamic in the household that isn’t healthy? Are we starting to get lazy, spend too much time on screens, call each other names?
  • Do we need to make some big decisions, like whether or not to choose a new church, decide to homeschool next year, decide to get a pet?
  • Is the family going through a particularly tough financial time, so the kids need to understand and not complain if we don’t order pizza and go on a spending freeze?
  • Are there certain meals that the kids particularly like and want more of? Are there certain ones they definitely don’t want to eat?

And so many more! And, of course, kids can add their own things to the agenda.

When can you start family meetings?

I would say when the kids have a concept of planning ahead. Likely the child would have to be at least five or six (and younger kids can still be there but perhaps not participate as much).

But the more that we give kids a chance to have input into the family, and the more opportunities you have to explain the WHY behind the way you do family, rather than just imposing from above, the more buy-in there is with kids.

Again, here’s Brett’s explanation of the family meeting:

 

 

What about trying an annual family meeting  this weekend?

Talk to your kids as the school year starts. Get on the same page. Plan together. And use it as a way to bond together as a family and set new family traditions!

Take a look at Brett’s book Parenting: Navigating Everything for more great ideas to stay close with your kids!

 

The Benefits of an Annual Family General Meeting

Have you ever tried family meetings? How did they go? Any tips for us? Let’s talk in the comments!

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Founder of To Love, Honor and Vacuum

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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6 Comments

  1. Anon

    We did this when I was a kid – although I don’t think it was dignified by a name or agenda! I remember having input into holidays, pets and also financial discussions. The latter were especially useful. We went through several rocky financial patches – I know some people think kids should be shielded from this, but I think it’s much better to be open. Kids always know when something is wrong and it’s much less scary if it gets talked about openly because I wasn’t imagining things to be worse than they were. Plus it modelled a healthy way to respond to difficulties instead of just pretending they weren’t there, which was invaluable training for adult life.

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  2. Phil

    We have family meetings quite frequently. Often they are to coordinate schedules, big events, family news, etc. One of my most favorite family meetings of all time was when we introduced Famzoo financial management to the kids. (learned about that here on the blog!) The kids really took to the idea and man did we get in depth questions. It was just a cool experience. We have never done a “yearly planning” family meeting – I suppose we could take it to that level but regardless family meetings are good. It really puts everyone on the same page and it also makes everyone feel like they are on a Team which as Becca found out for her book…is a key to building trust with your kids to heighten the odds that your kids wont rebel.

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  3. A2bbethany

    This makes me think of the book, cheaper by the dozen. Family meetings decided everything, and when their dad died, it greatly helped the mom keep up with all of them!

    In contrast, my parents only called meetings rarely and only to tell us they’d noticed we’d been especially bad lately. It never seemed to help much, because the verbally abusive older sister always shone like an “angel”, after showing up late. Which usually had the affect of no one else really bothering to talk.

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  4. Susan

    We like to have a meeting before school starts. Since my husband holds the priesthood in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints he gives each of us a blessing for the upcoming school year, including me! We record and type them up for future reference. It’s very comforting and important–a blessing from God. Any worthy man in the Church can receive the priesthood to bless their family.

    Reply
  5. Cynthia

    Love it! We actually did have family meetings before we got our dog, when I made it clear that the kids had to actually research what a puppy needed and we made a daily schedule of responsibilities.

    It was still a ton of work for me in the puppy phase, but at least my son honored his commitment to take the 3 a.m. – 6 a.m. shift and he still does his part without complaint (thankfully, the dog now sleeps through the night).

    Kids really do chores more readily when they have a say in them.

    Reply
  6. Sue R

    We had few family meetings when I was growing up, but it’s a great precedent to set for adults, too. As adult children of aging parents who both had long-term progressive health problems, we held family meetings periodically and whenever there was any major change in health status. It was so helpful for all of us (three adult children and our parents) as we navigated changes in care and living situations. These situations can often become contentious times in a family, but with everyone being on the same page and feeling involved, we all felt supported and confident in our decisions. So, family meetings are not just for kids!

    Reply

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