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Family Meetings, Structure, and Routines

May 21, 2015

Topic 2: Family Meetings, Structure, and Routines

I have heard several times that if our lifespan was represented by a yardstick, parents only have about 3 inches of that yardstick to influence and teach their children before other factors take over such as peers and societal influences.  So, as parents we might as well make that time as useful and productive as possible as we help our child’s brain grow and develop through the interactions we are able to provide and the information we are able to allow and filter out of our child’s reality.

Children and adults alike crave structure (; Ulm, 2010). As a former classroom teacher and parent I can attest to that statement. “Children fear the unknown” and when they are unsure of what is happening next that is unknown and results in a fearful response ( Likewise, when families are able to meet and discuss structures and other events in their lives children begin to feel like they are more of an active participant in their lives rather than a passive puppet.

How can we ensure our children feel safe and feel as though they know what is going on around them? Talk and provide structure. Let our children have a voice in their lives. Just think, if you never had a voice growing up or in the work place, or in other parts of your life, would you feel as though you are worthwhile? Would you have a very high self-esteem? The answer is probably no. Everyone likes to have a little say in their lives. Now, I know what the push back is. “I grew up in a time when children were seen and not heard.” Absolutely! However, times have changed—something we can do nothing about but live in the moment. So, in order to help our children survive and thrive in their current society we need to teach them how to have an active voice and let them have an active voice.

Talking, in essence, is having a family meeting. Now a family meeting does not need to be like we see on TV where the parents yell for everyone to come to the living room, there is a big board set up with “rules” or “problems” or taking about something that is wrong. Family meetings are meant to be a time of enjoyment and getting to know each other so when the time comes to discipline your children, they know, through your actions and words, that you love them and are helping them develop to the best of your ability.

There are different types of family meetings; I will only be highlighting three. These are strategies my husband and I have used also. From personal experience, they work.

  1. Family Fun: What is something fun you like to do? What is something fun your children like to do? What is something fun you like to do as a family? Well, let’s plan to do those things. Even if you don’t enjoy soccer, but your child does, plan a little time to kick the ball around. Spend time TOGETHER! You may also send them to a soccer camp, but the important part is that you are also engaging in their likes. When you engage in these conversations and activities you may find out your child loves to do something you never imagined! It also builds the bond between you and your child so that it is even stronger!
  1. Problem-solving/prevention: If you find yourself getting frustrated time after time in the same situations, it is time to have a problem prevention talk. This is not a time for you to command your child how to behave when you go to a restaurant or to a store, but rather a time to have a conversation, beginning with “I Messages.” You may be asking yourself, “Why do I have to use I Messages? I am the parent; I am the one in charge. I will tell me child what to do and they will do it.” Yes, that is one approach. However, I would encourage parents to try another approach that has a great potential to create a different effect. During this problem prevention talk, tell your child how you feel when they throw a temper tantrum. Talk with them to set boundaries and to set the LOGICAL CONSEQUENCES (more on this in topic 6) and agree on what appropriate behavior is in certain situations. Sometimes it is also okay to share appropriately. Such as, can you imagine if I did that, what do you think would happen? Again, reiterating your job as a parent to prepare your child to become a successful adult one day.
  1. Routines: There are so many routines families go through every day: getting ready for school, doing homework, preparing for dinner, getting ready for bed, etc. Wouldn’t it be nice if you had a conversation with your child asking them what they like to do during those routines? You may be thinking, “Ask my child what they want to do? Absolutely not, I am the parent and I will tell them when and how to get ready for bed or to set the table.” Again, that is one approach. I would encourage parents again to try something different. Sit down, discuss with your child, ask them how they may see routines going in their life. Chances are if you are getting a lot of push back or fighting during homework time or getting dressed in the morning it is because your child feels powerless. Have you ever felt powerless? Feels pretty crummy, right? Well, your child is a human also, and feels the same way. Give them a choice, give them a voice. I bet if you have not tried asking your child in what order they would like to get ready for bed or when they would like to complete their homework they feel powerless. So, ask them and chances are it will begin to be a much smoother routine. Now, again, I am not saying let your child say, “Well, I don’t like to do anything, so I am not going to help with that routine, or I am not going to brush my teeth.” It is the idea of structure and choice (topic 3). I have the structure that our routine at bedtime will consist of teeth brushing, bath time, book, snack, and brushing teeth. That is my structure as a parent. Now, it is your job as a parent to ask yourself, does it REALLY matter what order my child does them in? It might a little, such as snack needs to happen sometime before brushing teeth, but for the most part it doesn’t matter and your child can have a say. During these family meetings where you are discussing routines, make sure to set the structure of what must be done, but let your child think through how they want to do it every night. (The same every night, but that routine is their choice with your guidance).


**Remember, the executive center of the brain does not fully develop until we are 25, it is our job as parents to make sure all of the connections are being made so that our child, when they are an adult, can think through pros and cons and problem solve— this routine development is problem solving!


*Most of this information is taken from the curriculum Active Parenting. However, I have also done my own research and added it in when necessary. I am not marketing Active Parenting nor do I get anything from the sales of Active Parenting. (Michael Popkin, Ph.D., 2014)


From → Education

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