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See, my family has done a Sunday night family meeting for forever; around fourteen years now. Ever since our youngest was just a toddler. This is a cornerstone of our family.
We take turns being the leader (we let the kids start taking turns as leader once they turned 3 years old); the leader gets to pick Sunday night dinner, dessert and leads the meeting.
The coolest part of this years-long tradition is that it has allowed me to get to know my children. And it’s given me a tool to let them know me too. I know who is struggling with school. I know what subject they feel they are doing best in. I found out when the neighbor kids were being mean. I know who loves to be outdoors. I found out what their favorite dinner was and how they felt about my being gone for work. They heard about my week. How I missed them, what crazy stuff I did to get home in time for the soccer game.
It also taught them listening and leadership. And they know each other. Huge.
We open with a short, simple prayer, we close with a prayer, and in between we talk about our week. The best stuff, the toughest stuff, stuff we’re proud of or were hurt by. If there are any outstanding issues, we address them here. (Okay, so we need to talk about where we are going for Thanksgiving this year…)
When they were little it was simple: I liked playing on the playground this week. I liked that mom made pudding. Yesterday, with my now grown children, we talked about a recent suicide on campus. Huge conversation. So valuable.
Over the years, we’ve talked about everything it seems. Why are some kids mean? Why are some grown-ups mean? What does it mean to be a good person, a good member of this family, a good student? We’ve talked about failure. Failure is an inevitable and important part of life. Gracious in victory and gracious in defeat, I tell my kids. You’re going to fail, that’s not the important part, the important part is what you do after you fail. What did you learn? How will you do things differently moving forward? You know we still love you, right?
My husband typically adds the humor, as needed. Our youngest is fast picking up that torch. It’s a good skill.
NO phones. Phones have to be in another room and on silent. No TV. Just family sitting in a circle, listening to each other.
Try it tonight. A family meeting. Get your husband’s buy-in because you guys are a team, and then, sure, just spring it on the kiddos. Tell them this afternoon. We’re going to do this thing after dinner tonight. Pick an object (we use a wooden spoon) to be your Talking Thing. Whoever is in possession of (in our house) The Talking Spoon is the one holding the floor. Our job is to listen to and respond to that person. We pass the Talking Spoon back to the leader as our sign that we are done with our turn.
It probably won’t be perfect the first go-round, but try. You’ll be AMAZED at what you find out about your kids. And they’ll be amazed to find you listening to them.