Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Family Meeting - Creating Unity and Avoiding Power Struggles

The past two posts I wrote about my slow and powerful recovery from being a serious control freak.  My need to govern may have been stealth and unobservable by most bystanders, but my family can attest, it was mom's way or the highway when push came to shove.  (If you only knew what fortitude it takes to even type that here, you would fall down and worship God for His awesome and intimate touch and His relentless pursuit of transformation in each of our hearts).

I have come a long way, yet feel like I'm just starting to really get a grip on what it means to decide what I will do (know my boundaries and stick with them), let them decide what they will do (release and empower) and pray like crazy over the difference (trust God and step out of His place and His movement in their lives).  Not to digress too far, but I am finding that I learn lessons in layers.  It seems I started learning about healthy boundaries about 28 years ago and as I look back over the terrain of my life, I see how there have been milestones where I let the lesson sink in further and become more integrated.  I guess that is sanctification in a nutshell.  Bit by bit He makes us more and more like Him. 

I am excited to impart a few tools over the next few posts which have been of such great support to me as I am growing in this new level of release.
At the end of my last post I mentioned the "Family Meeting" which is something I really want to share with you.  This gift came my way via a sweet friend who is constantly doing diligent research and reading so she can improve the way they do "family."  I just love gleaning from her.  I'm going to jump right in here and tell you what we're doing and how it has blessed us:

Once a week, on Sunday evening, we hold a "Family Meeting."  The gist of this meeting is three-fold.  
1. Spiritual
2. Planning and Informing
3. Problem Solving

We start our meeting in prayer followed by our weekly devotion. Each member of the family takes a turn leading the devotion, so one week I present it, the next my husband guides us, the next, my 13-year-old son shares and finally my 6-year-old has his turn and then we go back through the rotation.  Since I am raising boys, I want them to ultimately lead their families spiritually, so giving them an opportunity in this devotional leadership is preparing them for that future role in their families.  We don't tell them what to do with their week as to how to lead us.  We encourage them to be thinking about their devotion all week and bring something from their personal walk with the Lord to share with the rest of us.  For my youngest, it may be a repeat of his Sunday School lesson or of some reading we did together in his Jesus Storybook Bible.  My older son may bring us a piece of wisdom from his quiet time.  My husband read through Proverbs Chapter 3 last week and then shared about what it means to him to trust in the Lord. 

Following the prayer and devotion, we go into our Planning portion of the meeting.  At this point in the meeting we might talk about things we want to plan to do together (such as going to Disneyland in the fall, or where we want to serve in our community, or what day we are all doing yardwork this coming week).  Then we lay out our coming week's calendar so everyone is aware of what is coming up for all members of the family in the next week.  Also, during this time of the meeting, my husband and I will make our "announcements."  Announcements are things we have decided as parents (that are not up for negotiation, but need to be known by the whole family).

Announcements also can include things like when I said, "I have noticed you boys are coming late to our morning lessons.  I will not wait for you.  I will keep my day rolling.  I am available for that time to teach you, but if you miss out on my availability, I am going on with my day and you will have to do your lesson alone and turn in proof of your learning to me before you will be allowed to play later in the day."  Just that kind of FYI is the "deciding what I will do" part of life that lets me free them up to make tons of mistakes as they learn from their own choices - without me yelling, getting frustrated and resentful or throwing in the towel. 

After the Planning time of our meeting we go into the Problem Solving time.  We each get to bring up concerns or requests.  We don't talk about "Mom, I need new tennis shoes," here because that is not a family issue.  We discuss things like the way we are treating one another, rules that have not been followed, guidelines for bedtime or screen use or other hot topics.  We may resolve ongoing conflicts such as when brothers are in each others' space too much or how late we tarry after church (as some of us want to get in the car and go and the more extroverted of the bunch want to stay and chat until the custodian locks us out of the building).  Each family member can bring an agenda item (or more than one, though we go around to each person in a rotation, so there may not be time for more than one concern per person). 

We have some "Guidelines" for the meeting which I'll just put out to you here:
1. One person talks at a time (we pass a little nerf ball and whomever is holding the ball is the speaker - this immediately and simply eliminates any spirit of argument and interruption). 
2. Everyone listens while someone else is talking just as they would want others to listen to them.
3. If you are bringing up a concern, you must bring a suggested solution (or two) with it.
4. If you disagree with anything someone else has said, you must present an alternative solution.
5. No solution is put in place until there is a unanimous consensus.
6. If we cannot resolve a concern, it is tabled until the following week.  

When someone brings up their concern or request, they also share their suggested solution.  Then we all talk things out, taking turns by throwing the talking ball to one another.  Finally, the ball lands in my husband's hands and he sort of wraps it up.  We keep notes on what was decided and everyone signs the notes so it is "official."  The beauty of this process is that we are all focused on solving a problem rather than arguing or complaining.  We share our concerns or questions and then we are forced to listen instead of getting stuck in defending our position.  Family members who tend to dominate have to step back and those who are reserved have to take a turn giving input.  The playing field is leveled.  We all participate together.  No question or concern is too ridiculous (we're dealing with a dreamer six-year-old here, so we do get a few doosies in the mix sometimes) or too heavy. 

We wrap up our meeting in prayer and then we spend an hour doing something fun together like going on a bike ride or out to ice cream, playing a board game, backyard soccer or hide-and-go-seek (we're dorks, I know!).  We decided having a fun, unifying activity after the meeting makes the evening something we all can look forward to, so no matter whether we resolved our concerns or not, we all end the night on an up note. 

By having an early supper, then the meeting, followed by a family fun activity, we are strengthening our bonds with one another.  We are teaching our boys valuable problem solving skills and modeling how families worship God while connecting with one another.  The fruit of this process has been rich and sweet.  Our boys feel they are giving input that matters.  They buy into the solutions because they helped decide what would happen.  They are learning to negotiate with one another instead of the occasional getting frustrated and yelling or slamming doors. Our family looks forward to Sunday evening as a time of connection.  When we are frustrated about something through the week, we don't get anxious or overwhelmed.  We can table it as an agenda item for the family meeting and trust that together we will find an answer to that concern without arguing or getting into power struggles.  We are on the same team.  God says in Ephesians for us to be diligent to preserve the spirit of unity in the bond of peace.  The family meeting does that in spades.
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If you haven't put a family meeting in place, I strongly encourage you to give this a try.  If you have other great tools for solving problems as a family or for coming together on a regular basis, please share!  We're all here to learn, grow and encourage one another.  I love hearing from you either here or on the Hearts Homeward Facebook Page.  ... 

Next week I am so very excited to be writing about Bible Journaling and how it has transformed my intimacy with God over the past month. 

Gratefully Linking Up with: theweekendbrewbutton


Tamryn de Laborde said...

This really beautiful. Thank you for sharing. I also allow my children to take responsibility for thinking for themselves instead of me yelling and nagging. If they aren't in their school uniforms by 8:30 they will be attending school in their pajamas and things like that.

HeartsHomeward said...

Thanks, Tamryn. Yes, to no nagging! I have had only one experience of my youngest having to dress in the car. That did it for him. He is ready and dressed now. He thought I was joking, but I said, "Time to go, you can go as is." He gathered up some pants and a shirt and scurried to the car. It is so much more lovely and loving when we can let the consequence teach them instead of our nagging or raising our voices. I've not been perfect in this (at all), but I have grown into a place of empowerment and it is blessing all of us, the more I grow. Thanks so much for coming here and sharing your experience. You are welcome back anytime.

Barbie said...

This is great! I love the idea of a family meeting. It's something I've always wanted to do, but we don't quite have a handle on it just yet. Always blessed by your sharing at The Weekend Brew.

HeartsHomeward said...

Sweet, Barbie!
I've missed you, friend. I'm so glad you popped in and let me know you were here. I hope you give this a whirl. It may not go perfectly every time, but it is such a great tool and it blesses everyone so much as long as we all stick to the guidelines we set out. It's a work in progress, but you'll never regret trying it. I'm so glad you stopped by Hearts Homeward. You are a blessing.

Mary said...

My kids are both grown now but the idea of a family meeting is perfect. As a teacher I used to have class meetings once a week or as a special need arose. It was a wonderful way to form community. Thank you for sharing at The Weekend Brew. Barbie and I both love seeing you.

HeartsHomeward said...

Your students were so blessed to have a teacher like you. I have such fond memories of specific teachers. For years to come those kids will have the tools you gave them and who knows how they will put them into play. Thank you so much for saying you are glad to see me at Weekend Brew. I just love Barbie and am so glad you are partnering with her in this aspect of her blog.