Monday, August 9, 2010

Family Councils, Family Meetings

Perhaps the most important organization or group is the family. A healthy family provides the training ground for positive interactions within the larger community. The family can also provide a refuge for peace and healing.

Unfortunately not all families provide all that children and adults need to interact positively and effectively with each other and with the community as a whole. Many of the principles and strategies provided in other parts of this web site are as applicable to families as they are to other collaborations. Much of what is written on this page is as applicable to other collaborations as it is to families.

Searching the internet for "Family Council" provided little information. Searching for "Family Meeting" provided a wealth of great information, some of which is linked from below. Because of the information linked from below, this page will only add a few concepts and suggestions for holding an effective family council.

When and Why

Family Councils are most effective when they are held regularly and started when children are young. Once a week or at least once a month are recommended. Special sessions for establishing goals can be held annually with review of goals and objectives and measurable outcomes at least every three months.

Holding a Family Council or Family Meeting regularly and starting when the family is young, and when relationships and circumstances are going well, makes it easier and more effective to hold a Family Council when something is not going as well, in more difficult times, and under more difficult circumstances. Family Councils can be a wonderful training ground for collaboration, goal setting, and conflict resolution. A Family Council can help to strengthen family members and is a great time to share esteem and love.

What to do and How to do it.....a few suggestions.

Families do not all make decisions in the same way, some families are more collaborative and some are more authoritative. However decisions are made, in order for a family council to be effective, a few effective rules need to be followed. The following list includes both possible rules and suggestions for a positive Family Council.

1. Each family member needs to be heard without the fear of repercussions. "Real listening shows respect: It creates trust. As we listen, we not only gain understanding; we also create the environment to be understood. And when both people understand both perspectives, instead of being on opposite sides of the table looking across at each other, we find ourselves on the same side looking at solutions together." Stephen R. Covey

If individuals are reluctant to share, you might go around the family giving each specific opportunity for comment and/or questions. If this continues, perhaps you have not created a safe environment for sharing and there is work that you need to do. You may want to increase safety and trust while reducing stress.
2. Only one person should speak at a time. Some times this is facilitated by a 'talking item.' Some families use a stick or a water noodle or a stuffed animal. The person who is holding the item 'has the floor' and can speak. Everyone else needs to be silent and actively listen.

3. Respect each others physical and emotional space.

4. The purpose of a Family Council is to build and strengthen the family and each individual member, not for criticism; however, if there is criticism, it should be brief, no more than one minute or sixty seconds. Criticism should NEVER be directed towards a person, but should ALWAYS towards inappropriate behavior.

5. Avoid criticism in front of others; however, there may be some rare times when it is important to hear something from more than one person. Do not do this as an entire family unit, bring only those directly involved into the conversation. For example… If criticism is used, at least twice as much time should be directed towards and focused on a persons strengths and showing increased love. Be careful to not always link the two. Criticism should be sanwhiched between positives. Start with a genuine postive and end with a genuine positive. Make sure that for every time you give a critism, you provide at least two genuine compliments or thank yous for something well done. Remember that what ever you focus on increases. Remember that sometimes people react inappropriately because that is how they have learned to get their needs met or because of their own fears. Carefrontation is almost always better accomplished one on one and not in a group.

6. Avoid arguing. Find common ground.

7. Family Council is a great time to set goals both for the family and for the individual. Areas that may be considered include: Social (both internally within the family and externally with others), Physical/Health, Emotional, Spiritual, Intellectual/Educational, Recreational, and Financial. It is also a great time to write a Family Mission Statement and/or a Family Values Statement. When setting goals, plan and write how you will accomplish them and how you will know that they have been accomplished. Review and record progress. Adjust as needed.

8. Discuss finances and plan a budget. Discuss, plan, and carry out ways to save and possibly earn additional money.

9. Discuss family chores, rules, responsibilities, and consequences.

10. The Family Council can be an excellent time to schedule the week and let everyone know where everyone else will be, how they can be contacted and who they will be with. This pertains as much to the adults as to the children.
11. End with a game or something fun. Treats are almost always a great addition.

A Family Council does not guarantee perfection or that all will go smoothly in the family. It is an effective tool and an even more effective tool when used consistently, early, and in a positive and appropriate manner.

Supplemental Materials:
Family Communication and Family Meetings
How to Hold a Family Meeting
family meetings
Family day and family meetings – a rewarding routine
Family Meetings
Manage Anger Through Family Meetings   
How to hold a family council or family meeting.

1 comment:

Gordon said...

You may want to linke to my website.
This is a how to site for family management using the council principle. The is a book being finished based on 40 years of experience using and lecturing on Family Councils that should be available next year.