Guest-writer: Vaine Angelo
What would you do if your small children called you to a family meeting every time they wanted to discuss something that they don’t agree with? Or something they are feeling frustrated about? Or maybe to defend their right to have ice cream before lunch? I personally have this happening often at home and, for years now, I have been encouraging my five and six-year-old to call family meetings whenever they think it is needed. I do it myself.
Calling a family meeting became this efficient tool to decrease fighting and arguing between my kids and it has allowed us, the parents, to develop our self-control towards them and between us. I also believe it has been helping our children to develop their emotional and social intelligence in a very natural way and to position themselves as leaders outside of our home. But before I go any further, I want to explain how it all started hoping that I can inspire you or at least offer you a communication tool that will add value to your family.
Three years ago, during a family vacation, my husband and my two children were walking in Perugia, a charming city in Italy, when it began pouring down rain. Suddenly, my the kids started to run, each in a different direction. That is an example from an entire day full of them “not following directions” that became my last drop of frustration, and right there I lost it! I threw my arms up and cried out: “I need a family meeting. Right now!”
My husband picked the perfect place for the meeting, a restaurant close by with about 30 stairs to be climbed. The climbing offered us some time to calm down a bit so when we hit our destination instead of yelling and acting out just like one of our children, I expressed my frustration in a calm voice and allowed my husband and kids to do the same. Within a few minutes, everything was back “under control” and we navigated ourselves out of the torrential rain to the safety of our flat.
To my surprise though, the very next day, my three-year-old got frustrated and decided to request a family meeting. We were soon to discover his discontentment in heading for lunch instead of having ice cream first (what a surprise!). Interestingly, he had not only paid attention to the “calling a family meeting” the day before, but, most importantly, understood the benefit of it. We gathered around him and allowed him to speak up. After acknowledging his point-of-view, we explained that ice cream was something we eat for dessert. And even though he didn’t agree with it, being heard was enough for him to let it go.
My daughter also didn’t take long to pick up on the whole family meeting “thing.” Last year, my daughter’s VPK teacher called me to share how my daughter had helped two little boys resolve a conflict without the intervention of an adult. My girl called a meeting and she was able to mediate the conflict by doing what we do with her at home. The teacher told me that she was a natural leader. Although I appreciated the teacher’s words, I disagree with the “natural leader” statement. My daughter is a leader because she is being raised to be one. It is an intentional process.
I believe that the biggest calling of parenting is to raise the next generations of leaders. This is our main commitment as a family and calling meetings is one of the many tools that allows us to help our children to develop their emotional and social skills to thrive in the outside world.
This past year, we incorporated calling meetings for “good things” after identifying that we were only doing it to resolve conflicts. Now, we call meetings whenever somebody has something to share with the whole family. It can be an accomplishment or a challenge. It can be to help us all be on the same page on the activities we will do on our next trip, for example.
Successful family meetings require parents to be good listeners and good communicators, both as mediators and participants of the meeting. I see in family meetings an opportunity to teach our children about managing their own emotions as well as respecting the other person’s point-of-view. It teaches that they have a voice and that they have the right to be heard, just as we must give other people the same right. And, my favorite part of it, is that it teaches them to navigate through conflict resolution in a positive way.
Are you ready to call your first family meeting?
About the guest-writer: Vaine Angelo (www.vaineangelo.com) is a mom, wife, and entrepreneur. Her mission is to inspire, empower, and equip women to rise up and lead the change they want to see in their life, family, business and the world.