Parenting Decoded

17 - Calming the Chaos with Family Meetings

August 13, 2020 Mary Eschen Season 1 Episode 17
Parenting Decoded
17 - Calming the Chaos with Family Meetings
Show Notes Transcript

Many of us struggle with kids who whine, disobey and maybe even lie just to get their way.  We get so exasperated we want to explode and some of us certainly do explode. 

In this podcast we’ll explore what happens in our families if we’re always operating in “crisis mode” then talk about ways to avoid ever getting into that mode by using Family Meetings to set boundaries and limits while communicating as a family what behaviors are acceptable and expected. 

Using this step-by-step method you can set a clear path to success for your family as a team and learn to solve problems together and celebrate living and learning in an ever changing world. 

Here's a transcript of the podcast:  TRANSCRIPT

Calming the Chaos Using Family Meetings

Welcome to Parenting Decoded, a podcast for practical approaches to parenting.  I’m Mary Eschen.  

Many of us struggle with kids who whine, disobey and maybe even lie just to get their way.  We get so exasperated we want to explode and some of us certainly do explode.  Our buttons are pushed and we just don’t know what to do.  In this podcast we’ll explore what happens in our families if we’re always operating in “crisis mode” then talk about ways to avoid ever getting into that mode by using Family Meetings to set boundaries and limits while communicating as a family what behaviors are acceptable and expected.  


Let’s start off with the obvious list of which parenting traps you might be falling into:


Do your kids wear you down with whining until you either explode or give in?  It works often enough for the kid that they keep doing it over and over.  Do they want another cookie?  Or maybe to interrupt you on a phone call?  


Does your child ignore your requests so you then proceed to nag them into compliance? Every time we remind, we’re training them that what we say doesn’t mean a thing.  


Has your child told you a lie in order to get their way?  “No, I didn’t hit Jimmy.” Or “I still have 15 minutes left of computer time” when you know they’ve had more than their fill? 


Are you good about setting up lots of rules but your kids are always ignoring them?  Or are you a Drill Sergeant who has lots of rules but get compliance from yelling and telling your kids what to do?  Often times kids will become defiant when too many rules are constantly enforced especially when they don’t agree with all the rules. 


Do you use phrases to motivate your “lazy” or “dirty” kid to do things?  “What a slob!” “You smell like a pig, go take a shower!” “No one would want to be with you, you’re so stupid.”  “You are such a cry-baby.” “Why do you always break things?”


Or are you a parent who gets compliance with money or other currency like computer time?  You tell your child if they do their chores, they get money.  If they clean their room, they get computer time. I’m all in for having levers and knowing our kids’ currency but I want to put such a valuable commodity to better use. 

In all of these circumstances we’re reacting to our kids without a thoughtful plan and easily become overwhelmed and often irritated.  I was working with a family last week and the mom was just so frazzled having her 4 kids, ages 3 to 11, home all summer.  She felt her kids just totally ignored her.  It was pretty much mayhem and every day seemed like a bad day.  Just going to the pool for what should have been a fun time swimming wound up being a struggle from getting into the car to the pool and back.  

So, fine, we’ll all admit that we’re weak in at least one or two of those areas.  Ok?  Now what?  

BOUNDARIES – What do they look like?

First, let’s recognize what a boundary might look like since we all need to understand the basics of setting good boundaries. As we do this, I want to point out that we want to keep things as positive as possible.  We have so much negativity that creeps into our homes, we want to keep our limits positive and simple.  

·      I read books to kids who have brushed their teeth.

·      I wash clothes that are in the hamper.

·      I drive kids to soccer practice who have all their gear.  

·      I serve dinner to kids who’ve washed their hands. 

·      I drive when everyone is buckled in their seats. 

I think you can all guess what the negative approaches sound like and how they cause us to not only create negative energy but we often stumble into fighting and arguing with our kids as well creating even more of the negative vibes that we want to avoid.  


We have to be true to our word when setting our boundaries.  When we say “I wash clothes that are in the hamper.”  We need to make sure we only wash clothes in the hamper.  Yes, even if clothes are lying all across your teen’s room and you know they need their workout clothes for tomorrow, you have to be willing to leave them where they are and not touch them.  If you do, you just violated your boundary and have lost your leverage.  



Ok, we all understand the basics of “setting a boundary” and “following through on consequences”.  It seems so easy but what happens when you know you have rules and everyone is ignoring them so often and so much that you’re worn out and frazzled like our swimming pool mom?  You are ready to cry and run out of the house it’s so bad?  

You need to bring out the big guns.  You need some real brain power to solve issues like these and you’re going to recruit your family’s brains to help make that happen.  As parents we often feel we’re on the hook to solve every problem.  It’s totally not fair and it’s not good for the development of our kids to leave them out of these amazing opportunities to solve big interpersonal problems and learn to work as a team.  What’s the “big gun”?  It’s called a Family Meeting. 

Here’s how a Family Meeting will work.  First, decide on just one area of your family life that is either easiest in your mind to make progress on or the one that dives you the craziest.  In our example the mom decided to just focus on going to the neighborhood swimming pool but for you it could be kids picking up toys or getting off electronics, cleaning their rooms, whatever it is, you just take one and work on it first.  We need to start somewhere and trying to overhaul everything and none of it working just makes us feel like failures and we give up so let’s not do that. 



You’re going to announce to your family that tonight you’re having a Family Meeting at a particular time like after dinner. Explain that you need help in solving an issue and really want everyone to help brainstorm solutions.  You and your spouse might want to have a pre-meeting just to make sure you’re on the same page in selecting which topic will be worked on and maybe a general goal for the meeting.  


Humbly admit that you are struggling and need your family as a team to come up with some possible solutions.  Ask one of your kids to be the secretary since there will be lots of ideas generated and you need someone to help keep track of them.  If your kids are too young to write yet, that’s fine, then you or your spouse could do it.  The idea here is to get them involved.  Set a positive tone by letting everyone know that no idea is a bad idea and all ideas will be considered, no disrespecting ideas since they are just ideas.  Tell everyone that you as a family will be selecting a few ideas to TRY for the next week and will be meeting again to go over the results and make modifications.  Tell them that this is not just mom or dad dictating this, you need lots of brainpower to solve this one.  Be the cheerleader for your family telling them they are awesome and as a team you can solve this one but you need everyone’s help. 


Describe the issue and what is hard for you that you feel needs solving.  Things like getting kids to bed or getting off electronics aren’t just one step solutions so you need to list out the different parts you see that need to be worked out.  Open up the meeting for ideas from everyone.  Write all the ideas down.  Make sure there are ideas for consequences as well.  Your goal is to get the kids to decide the rules and consequences so that everything is known up front, that everyone is informed.  This will save you from having to make things up on the fly which often doesn’t go well.  


Once the list is done select one or two ideas for each area to TRY.  Assign someone to make a poster or a list of what is going to be done.  Decide how long the first experiment will run and when the next meeting will be to go over results. 


Run the experiment.  Don’t get mad if things don’t work out.  Have a place where people can submit things that aren’t working well so that you can keep track throughout the time period. 


Hold your follow-up meeting and go over the results.  Be sure to give praise where things went well! Ask for new ideas to improve the process and possibly bring out the old list of ideas you didn’t use from your first meeting.  Keep holding this review/revise meetings until you work out all the kinks in the system.  


Celebrate!  Take time to celebrate your family’s amazing ability to solve problems as a team!  You are all awesome and love each other!  Go out for ice cream or have a picnic in the park.  Do something!


Now that you have the steps, I was to show you how one mom solved her swimming pool issues using them.  


She announced that they were having a meeting to discuss how to better get to the swimming pool and back. 


She explained that she was tired of going to the pool when kids weren’t helping get ready.  There was always someone who couldn’t find their swimsuit or towel and things like water and snacks were always her job.  On the drive kids were unruly and when at the pool when someone broke the safety rules, they ignored the consequence since mom was too busy keeping the other kids safe, especially the 3-year-old.  What could they do?


Her oldest son, a 5th grader, took the notes.   They talked about what items were needed to bring to the pool each time.  They had ideas for which ones were problems and how to solve them.  Each kid could have a list of what all they needed or they could each pick one item to get – towels, bathing suits, water, snacks, sunscreen.  They also talked about safety at the pool and came up with consequences as to what would happen if someone didn’t follow the safety guidelines.  Her one son tended to be the one who disobeyed and would get out of the pool then sneak back into the water when mom wasn’t looking.  An idea that mom and I talked about was having each kid pack a “land bag” of things to do if they were made to be outside the pool so that it was a consequence to be out of the water but it wasn’t miserable.  She proposed that idea to the kids too. 


Next they talked about the different options and came up with a first pass.  The 3 older kids decided to pick an item – one got the waters, one the snacks, the other the towels.   They also decided to select one area in the house that all the swimming gear would be in – towels and swimsuits would all reside in the laundry room instead of all over the house.  They would each pack and carry their “land bags” to the pool.  For kids not obeying safety rules they decided on a 3-step approach – 1st offense was 10 minutes, then it got upped from there. 


Mom proceeded to take her crew to the pool the next day to see how their new plan would work.  She was amazed at the huge improvement.  Her kids all brought their agreed upon items and the really cool part was when one of the kids started to stray or maybe forgot something, they could remind each other.  It wasn’t just mom vs. the kids!  It was a team!  Now that they all agreed on what was happening and knew what the process was, they could all own it.  Mom couldn’t have been prouder!


Mom was so impressed and so were the kids that the only modification that they added was to review the “pool contract” each time before going to the pool 


Mom hasn’t celebrated yet but plans to! 


As you can see from this family if you set this up right giving your kids a format where they have a voice and a choice, them feeling validated and heard can make everyone’s lives a lot easier.  These same kids are more invested in the rules if they help set them.  I’m not saying that parents should give in to any and all ideas their kids think up, you still can put limits on what they can request but a lot of the time we don’t care.  

I had another family who was refusing to let their daughters make GAK in their house, it’s that goopy, gooey glue kind of art gunk.  They felt it was way too messy.  They made a “no gak” rule and that’s the parent’s prerogative, of course.  However, one of their daughters was sneaking making gak.  Yikes!  That was worse than anything.  

I brainstormed some ideas during a coaching session with the parents to get them to dig down into what it really was they were looking for.  They just didn’t want the mess in the house.  Wow!  We live in California and they had a backyard.  Would they be willing to compromise with their daughters about setting up something out there?  They were also having a problem with their daughters taking laptops out in the yard which was a separate issue but they decided to have a meeting about both issues since they involved the outdoors.  

They held their first family meeting and agreed the girls could come up with a proposal of what it would take to set up an outdoor art station – what supplies, tables, etc. they might need.  They also agreed that the girls could take the laptops outside as long as they knew they’d be replacing them if they were damaged.  In the subsequent meetings they came up with a great solution that worked for everyone.  No more indoor gak and, as it turns out, it’s been months and neither daughter has brought a laptop outside since it seems they weren’t comfortable the cost of replacing one.  I love it!  They were no longer the mean parents who didn’t let them do stuff.  They were a team who solved problems and took responsibility.  


If you found this information useful, please forward the podcast link on to your friends and family since that’s the best way to grow this podcast for me.

 I’m also starting something new.  I’ve created a new Facebook Group you can join called Parenting Decoded.  I’ll go online every day and help answer your parenting questions in smaller bursts in a casual format.  It’s going to be a “private” group so that things don’t get away from me in our crazy social media universe but my goal is to accept any and all who’d like advice from me and a way to chat with other on issues that come up on a day to day basis.  Please, join me and post!


Lastly, I’m hoping to add to the end of my podcasts answers to your questions that you write in.  Just email me your questions to [email protected]!  It’s a new email address I set up just for your questions.  


That’s all for now.  Take care and be safe.  


Have a blessed rest of your day.