Topic of the month – Family Talk Time
Posted by: Sue Atkins
As a Parent Coach and mum of two teenage children I am often shocked, distressed and searching for ways to help our society move towards a better future where children can grow up safe, well balanced and with a purpose in life. Free from despair, anger, drugs and hopelessness.
I am not a politician and it strikes me that the answers lie in many different places and not just from government policies, schools or to society as a whole. For me, one key place for teaching tolerance, respect, and important social values is in the home and it begins with positive and confident parenting.
Homes are the natural place for children to be taught these key social skills easily by example, and they can be passed on as simply as just sitting around the kitchen table and eating together and chatting regularly.
Confident parents with clear expectations who are not afraid of instilling firm, fair and structured discipline and clear boundaries for their children, pass on this optimistic and positive outlook to their kids & teach them respect for themselves and others.
Recently I was coaching some parents on their philosophy to life and their general family ethos. I asked them to think about things that were important to them in life like their values, beliefs and their uncompromising principles, because parents who know what they feel strongly about pass on these values easily and clearly on to their children.
So what are your guiding principles to life – what things are important to you like honesty, integrity, working hard, telling the truth?
Grab a piece of paper and a coffee and write them down to get really clear about them. You may be really surprised.
When I coach parents I often encourage them to have regular family chats that have a purpose because family chats or “family meetings” are a great way to sort out the usual ups and downs of family life as they help you all go in the same direction together and help get things out in the open.
Getting your kids involved is a great opportunity to make them feel part of the decision making process at home as creating solutions to family niggles provides a real incentive for everyone to co-operate.
If you’re interested in trying this idea here are some ways to organise yourselves:
- Develop a set of simple “Family Meeting Rules” at your first meeting and be sure to write them down so everyone is clear about what to expect – things like not shouting at each other or taking turns to listen.
- Have the family meeting at the same time and place each week or month as this builds routine and expectations and nips niggles in the bud before they build up and get out of proportion.
- Make sure that all your family members are present and have a chance to be heard so no one feels left out.
- It’s often a good idea to put all decisions from the meeting in writing and have everyone sign the sheet when the meeting ends to show their commitment to what’s been talked about and agreed – get one of the kids to design it on the computer!
- Keep the meeting positive and have rules against disrespectful behaviours such as interrupting, insulting, or yelling or laughing at other people’s suggestions. Teach the energy of respect.
- Avoid distractions – so turn off the TV and radio, take the phone off the hook etc. so you can relax and enjoy chatting together.
- Remember the whole point of the chat or family meeting has a purpose which is to spend constructive, quality time discussing the concerns and issues which need to be addressed. So think of it like a business meeting but with a far more relaxed atmosphere – and plan an agenda
- An agenda helps you to discuss progress, problems, and changes over the week
- It helps you to discuss your family problems and decide on possible solutions.
- It encourages each family member to give positive feedback to the everyone else
- It also allows you to discuss the roles and expectations of each family member.
- It’s also a place to sort out your plans and agendas for the coming week so no one feels left out or doesn’t know what everyone else is up to
- It’s a great place to look at how the jobs in the house are getting done and who does what –
- It’s also a good place to discuss your family rules and the consequences for breaking them.
- Finally it’s a good idea to relax and have fun together so set aside a short period of time to play a game together as a family when the meeting or chat is over.
Here are some suggestions for topics that are really fascinating to explore with your whole family either once week, once a month or now and again – whatever suits the rhythm and style of your family.
- What is it that makes you special? Get everyone around the table to think of one or two things and watch your child’s face light up.
- What is it about yourself that you are most proud of? We don’t often pat ourselves on the back so this is a wonderful opportunity to do this amongst people who love you and support you.
- What special talents or abilities do you have?
- Tell each family member what you appreciate most about them.
This family chat is wonderful for building true self esteem amongst the whole family and keeps everyone motivated and positive throughout the week.
Managing your anger or frustration at home
This issue is a very common one for most families so this is a good place to start.
- What do you do when you feel annoyed or angry with someone in the family – what could you do instead?
- Give examples of a couple of techniques that work for you – counting to 10, pressing an imaginary pause button, leaving the room to cool off for a moment, hitting some golf balls in the garden, punching a pillow !
- Talk about times that you could use these techniques to help you control your temper and frustration healthily.
- Talk about times when you did use some of these techniques to calm down and how it went and what was good about using them.
- Talk about some new ways you could all try this week to make a change.
Focus for the week
Sit down with your family this week around the kitchen table and have a chat about some of the ideas for setting up house rules and positive ways to talk together about niggles , worries or problems. Explain that you’d like to help the atmosphere in the house to improve and run more smoothly and you’d like their input and suggestions. Ask each member of your family to think of at least one house rule and write them down. Then put them up somewhere where everyone can see them clearly and easily – maybe one of your children would like to design something on the computer to make the rules look interesting and colourful.
Then arrange another chat the following week at the same time to see how it’s all going. (Regular times are always a good idea so you don’t forget to do it!)
Families who value spending time with their children talking and listening and doing things together build up trust, respect and an easy way to pass on their values which strikes me as a simple but really important way to help society move positively forward through these sometimes traumatic events.