All families experience conflict and challenges at times. As Aletha Solter, founder of Aware Parenting, says “The mark of a healthy family is not the absence of conflicts, but the manner in which conflicts are resolved”.
More traditional parenting approaches that recommend punishments, rewards, strong discipline and authoritarian strategies, create disconnection and resentment. These approaches make it unlikely for our family relationships to be strong, loving or respectful.
When we practice Aware Parenting however, it is so much more effective because the focus in our families is on creating connection and building strong relationships to withstand the inevitable challenges and conflicts that arise. And when we are working to keep conflict resolution respectful and democratic, this teaches our children that we can work together to help ensure all members of the family have their needs met.
One of the best strategies to achieve these healthy and nourishing relationships in the family is by having regular family meetings. These meetings improve communication and connection, strengthen the family bond and create more harmony. When we hold regular family meetings, our children feel heard, that their opinions are respected and their needs for choice and autonomy are met. They can see that the whole family works together to make decisions jointly and everyone then feels valued.
How to hold Family meetings:
- Do it regularly for a set period of time e.g. 30 minutes.
- Set some rules – no interruptions, no shouting, no attacking, keep it a blame-free zone.
- Be kind – make sure that everyone listens in a non judgemental, respectful way.
- Change the order of who speaks when, so you take turns to go first.
- Some families create an agenda and some prefer to keep it more informal.
- Some families do it at a set time, and some do it ad hoc but the key is to hold meetings at times which are free of immediate conflict.
- If family members become frustrated, annoyed or angry and can’t resolve it in the moment, then postpone the meeting for another time.
- Anything can be discussed, whether it is something large or small. Everyone gets the chance to be heard.
- Topics include a grievance or fight, something that someone in the family is finding difficult, struggles about chores in the family, something that someone is the family wants to change, celebrating something that you are grateful for or sharing appreciations.
- The key is that everyone has the opportunity to raise problems and everyone gets to participate in finding solutions.
We have kept it quite informal in my family but we do it regularly and anyone can call a family meeting if they have something to discuss. We always end with something we are grateful for and something we appreciate about ourselves or others.
Sometimes children need support to participate but, if you start when the kids are young, by the time they are older, they are more likely to share their concerns with the family and seek our input and thoughts as you will have well-established system to resolve conflicts in the family. It’s never too early to start (even very young children can participate) and it’s never too late to start either!
Family meetings are a key ingredient in building strong, loving respectful relationships in the family and in teaching our children peaceful and harmonious conflict resolution.
If you are struggling at the moment and having conflicts and challenges, please reach out to me for support and guidance to use this and the many other effective strategies of aware parenting to help make family life easier and more joyful.
Let the meeting begin!