Dave C. – innovative dad and wonderful husband
The hardest part of parenting is often just a question of finding time. Time to give your children the attention they crave to help them make sense of their world, to make sure you give them the best chances in life to be self-aware, self-assured and able to stand on their own two feet against this you need to find the time to provide for them, earn a wage, cook, clean, do the laundry, shop etc. If only you didn’t have to repeat yourself constantly, If only they would actually help out for once!
Well, the bad news is they are not designed to, that’s how they come,pre-programmed to see the world through their eyes only, to look out for themselves. It’s part of their genetic survival mechanism, this is nature at work
The good news is that nurture (that’s our job) can overcome nature and make our lives and theirs much more rewarding and easier. Our job is to bring them up to be able to live and function in a society; they need to understand the rules which are founded on being empathetic to others.
This is actually quite easy to do in principle but it requires patience and explanation.
We need to give children 3 fundamental things:
- A point of reference which is a comfort in a world that for them changes everyday
- A chance to have a voice and control over their own
- A chance to develop skills to help them cope for themselves
How to get the message across?
- by explaining why we ask for things to be done and allowing the kids to question why but in a controlled way at a specific time – not in the Mall by the candy store!
- by giving them the opportunity to manage themselves and us which enables them to see our perspective – this develops empathy by experience as opposed to just being dictated to.
- by giving them tools to remember in a way which is fun and competitive (thereby appealing to their inherent sense of self interest) and at the same time we teach them skills that they can use to manage themselves better.
- by introducing a more structured way of showing them what they do directly affects others – this is based on reward.
The Weekly Family Meeting Method:
- Conduct a family meeting at least once a week
- Record all decisions and make them available to everyone
- Display progress on at very visible and accessible boards
- Each family member needs a pack of Post-it notes (see if you can get them in each person’s favorite color – Bright colors are better for kids – even less excuse not to see them!
- Thick marker pen
- Notice board – this can simply be a sheet or paper (A3 is easier to read) If your refrigerator is accessible then this doubles as a great board for post-its
- Notepad – to record decisions and actions from the meeting
- Next tell everyone that you will have a family meeting – don’t say anymore, what you will do next will get the kids interested, they all love a surprise
- Now set up the board with a couple of examples
Agree what you ultimately want to achieve, make it simple and easy to remember – we settled on simply ‘To be a happy family’ – young kids (ours are 6 & 7) can easily relate to this
- Now discuss a couple of problems that you as parents want to be improved – ours were getting ready for school in good time and keeping the kids room tidier – explain why it is important.
- Ask the kids if they have anything they want to be improved or changed – this is the most empowering part and ours love the chance to have a say in how things are done
- Get everyone involved in setting penalties (we avoid the word ‘punishments’) if the agreed goals are not met. Simple example if kids take too long to eat meals then there is no desert
- Note down all decisions and what they mean
- Now write out Post-it notes for the main repetitive tasks requiring attention and put them on the board
- Keep the meeting short, 20 minutes should be long enough to keep their attention but cover most things
- Post meeting some tasks require detail for example ‘get ready for school’ would not mean much without agreeing what that meant, so following the meeting a checklist was put onto the notice board so the kids can refer to the items to check off without having to remember
. for example the get ready for school post-it has a list detailing what it means and this is pinned on a board or in their rooms
- Make sure books, pencils and back-pack are all together
- Make sure you know what lessons are due the next day
- Get your clothes ready for the morning
A lot of references exist on the Internet from other families using Agile with Scrum techniques for family management and it is a good place to start to give you lots of idea and helps to get you started but we found that after a few meetings when the idea and culture has been established it is a good idea to ask the kids to get involved more. Both of ours now share the task of ‘being in charge of the meeting’ by following a simple script that they created. Another success was for a recent camping trip they designed the task board in Lego using 4 Lego characters on a green base that had a tent, trees and a lake at the end of it. The idea was as tasks were completed the characters moved down the board until they were eventually at the camp site. If you search for ‘Burndown chart’ this will give you the more formal method. This is also very good for getting your kids used to thinking how to break down tasks and problems into manageable steps and ensuring things get done, it builds not only their confidence but gives them tools for coping and managing themselves.
This method paid off instantly with our daughters’ occasional tantrums, she found out that we all have had enough of them and within 2 weeks she offered her own punishment if she had them again. It also gave her the chance to explain that it is often based on frustration and she needed time on her own to calm down…all this from a 6 year old. She also chairs the meetings now which has given her confidence in speaking up in front of others and being taken seriously.
Our son who is 7 has taken to the weekly meetings as he loves the chance to get his point of view across to everyone. And both kids now don’t need reminding of their chores in the house as they are right under their noses on bright Post-it notes
A simple 20 minutes a week has made a significant change not just to the kids but all of us are more open and better at working together as a family….try it you have nothing to lose and everything to gain
- Children resilience
- Children self esteem
- Parenting the idle way