Sunday Night Dinners–The Importance of a Family Meeting

Sunday Night Dinners–The Importance of a Family Meeting
Last year, we were lucky enough to see best-selling author and New York Times family editor Bruce Feiler, who has done an intense study of what makes families happy, found models of what works.  One of the best things about his talk (and his books) was that it doesn’t seem so hard.  He gives you manageable chunks of ideas, and lots of specific tips that seem eminently doable.

Feiler’s philosophy is rooted in the group dynamic practice of “agility.”  The best organizations (and, as it turns out, the happiest families), have “teams do things in small chunks of time, adjust constantly, and review their progress frequently. Ideas don’t just flow down from the top but percolate up from the bottom. The best ideas win, no matter where they come from. . . . Agile families have a system to change and react to family chaos in real time.”  

One of the cornerstones of creating an agile family is instituting a weekly family meeting.  Bruce credits it as being among the most impactful ideas they introduced into their lives since having children.  With such a recommendation, we decided to give it a go.  And, as I said, it didn’t seem that hard to get going.  

We gather over Sunday night dinners, since it’s a good time to be able to plan for the week.  We like to start positive, so we first do a go around of saying what we liked best about the week or the weekend.  We often talk specifically about what worked well in our family that week.  Then, we do a go round about what didn’t go so well.  It seems to help our kids be open about what they are struggling with because my husband and I certainly have no shortage of things that we feel we could do better.  And they are not always earth shattering things.  Sometimes it’s just being better about putting your shoes away when you come in the house.  One rule we try hard to stick to, but that is a challenge for my kids, is sticking with your own issues.  (“I know what your goal should be,” they not-so-helpfully intone to their sibling.)

While we don’t do it every week, it certainly has made a difference in how our family relates to each other the weeks that we do.  Just the symbolic act of having goals of what you’re going to work on and writing them down together makes you a more mindful family citizen, more concerned, and more engaged. 

And just to make sure everyone’s focused, we end the meetings by distributing that week’s allowance, but more on that later!