Sunday, August 17, 2008

I call this meeting to order.

Published August 17, 2008
St. George Spectrum & Daily News

About three years ago, I took a parenting class that came highly recommended by several friends. It was free to the public, very informative, and quite a lot of fun. I worked hard to put into practice much of what I learned there. One suggestion made by the teacher—the implementation of a weekly family meeting—sat on the shelf in my brain until earlier this year. I don’t really know why I waited so long (those of you clearing your throats as if to say, “Ahem…it’s because you were a control freak who didn’t want to switch to a democratic parenting style” can just be quiet right now).

Whatever the reason for the delay, I got over it. In March of this year, the kids and I held our first formal meeting and haven’t missed a week since. Now, I find I’ve become one of those overzealous crazy people on a quest, and that quest is to get the word out on how cool family meetings are. It tends to annoy my friends a bit, but I’m okay with that. Once they start holding family meetings of their own, I won’t seem nearly as annoying, because they’ll be out annoying all of their friends too. An outline of a typical family meeting follows:

Spotlights This is the feel good portion of the meeting. Everyone gets a chance to spotlight someone else for doing something right. At our first ever family meeting last spring, Miriam spotlighted Ray for helping her get things down from high shelves. Three year old Michael often spotlights the first person he looks at for “being nice.” At a family meeting held in the weeks following our wedding, my husband spotlighted himself for “being so lucky.” (Yes, I know that was a completely gratuitous bit of cuteness. At this week’s meeting, I’ll be spotlighting myself for using the word gratuitous.)

Calendar This section of the meeting is pretty self explanatory. We pull the calendar off the fridge and fill in appointments, activities, and other events we need to remember. I want the world to know I was quite fastidious about adding Underwear Day during our family meeting two weeks ago. We observed it with a *cough* brief moment of silence. (No, I will not apologize for the corniness of that pun.)

Planning We’re currently working on our plan to make a family flag. The first planning session brought with it the task of choosing our family colors. If you’re ever planning on making a family flag, I suggest you come to the meeting with three or four colors, and let them choose two. I made the mistake of asking everyone to submit a color for vote. Our flag will now be red, gold, green, blue, yellow, clear, and hot red. I don’t know what hot red is, but Michael is very passionate about it.

Issues The Issues portion of family meeting is a chance to work out the nuts and bolts of family life. We make rules, decide on consequences, and settle arguments. Everyone has the right to raise an issue, whether it’s Ray’s recent motion that we make Sunday nights “Taco Night” (it was unanimously approved) or Miriam’s passionate plea to reinstate family prayer time. The thing I’ve learned about Issues time is that I’d better be ready for complete honesty from my kids. How well I remember the meeting in which Cate pronounced, “Mommy, you yell too much.” Fortunately for me, I was rewarded two weeks later with her spotlight of, “Mommy, thanks for not yelling so much anymore.”

This week, I’ll be unveiling the new “Extra Chores for Cash” incentive system, and I’m pretty sure one of the kids wants us to vote on a fair Playstation 2 schedule. We’ll be looking over the sample family crests I printed from the internet, and we may start breaking down the costs of going to Disneyland next summer. All in all, I think it will be a fun and productive meeting. I’m especially excited for spotlight time.

I’ve been sneaking Michael extra desserts all week to get his.