Eight days ago I lost it on the kids in the car on the way home from Costco and then I wrote this post after I decided that I was no longer messing around and I was going to have to make some changes.
Originally I was going to wait until school was done to establish some new ground rules and routines, but the Costco Car Freakout made it clear that for my own sanity, I had to do things differently starting immediately.
So last Sunday, we held our first family meeting.
The idea of the family meeting came from (affiliate) my favorite Positive Discipline book.
Why I didn’t think of this myself, I don’t know.
Many teachers hold class meetings to start off their weeks.
Even in most preschools, your kids have circle time which is the same concept as a class meeting.
So last Sunday I held our first family meeting. It wasn’t quite the entire family, because Number 2 and my husband weren’t there. But I couldn’t wait any longer, so the first meeting consisted of me, and Numbers 3 -7.
Having a family meeting was a new thing. And because of that, the kids didn’t really know what to make of it and they weren’t exactly super cooperative. Well, three of them were. And two of them were just being total pains.
This was not unexpected. Family meetings take some training. And I fast forwarded over all the training parts to get to what I felt needed to be done.
We needed to find a way for all the kids to share responsibility for things that need to be done around the house and to have some respect for and understanding of the amount of work it takes to keep the house from turning into a complete and total sh*t hole.
So at our first family meeting I asked the kids to come up with a list of things that need to be done on a daily basis to maintain some semblance of order in the house. They needed a little guidance, but after a few minutes, we came up with the following every day tasks:
- empty the recycling
- feed the cat
- empty the litter box
- wash, dry and put away the dishes
- clean/straighten playroom
- clean up the pool deck
- sweep the kitchen floor
- wipe down the upstairs toilet
- wipe down the downstairs toilet
- fold/put away clothes
- make beds
- empty out lunch boxes
- hang up swim bags/ back packs where they belong
- put shoes away where they belong
Of those fourteen things, we determined that 1-9 were jobs that could be shared by everyone, and we determined that 10-14 were jobs that each person in the family was responsible for every single day.
Next, we made a list of all the jobs that need to be done on a weekly basis. We came up with this:
- cut the grass
- clean the upstairs bathroom
- clean the downstairs bathroom
- vacuum upstairs
- vacuum downstairs
- sweep the stairs
- clean under the couch
Then, rather than me assigning jobs, each kid took a turn picking and “every day” job from the list. We went in order of youngest to oldest first. Then everyone picked a second every day job, and we went in the opposite order. Once everyone had two every day jobs, we moved on to the weekly jobs. Everyone got one of those.
That was our whole family meeting. It lasted about 15 minutes, which is kind of long for the first time you try it out.
The first meetings usually work better if they are about 5 minutes. As you practice the routine of the family meeting, they can increase in duration.
I didn’t do anything fancy with the list of jobs, mainly because I just didn’t get to it.
Some of the kids forgot what their everyday jobs were, so we just referred to the list I had written down in a spiral notebook.
I could have asked one of the kids make a chart to help everyone keep track of their jobs. Maybe I’ll include that on the agenda for next week’s family meeting.
Anyway, the kids were, for the most part, fairly good about doing their jobs. Choosing them at the meeting definitely helped, because first, they each had a say in what their job was, and second, they saw that everyone had a job, not just the older kids.
But we all noticed that there wasn’t really any area of the house that got super messy because when everyone did their everyday jobs, um, every day.
Things were easy to maintain!
The hardest thing for me was to remain consistent in requiring the kids to do their jobs, especially on those really busy days. But I was pretty good about it.
During the week we realized we needed to add a couple jobs (washing the kitchen floor and bringing the dirty clothes downstairs).
We had our second family meeting today (we were all there ) and we added the new jobs to the list.
I thought about blowing it off tonight because we had a long day with a swim meet and a baseball game and it was 6pm on Sunday and we still hadn’t even eaten dinner or taken baths. But without this routine of the family meeting, I think we will have trouble establishing the other routines we so desperately need.
So we killed two birds with one stone and had the meeting while we had dinner. It didn’t run super smoothly — there was some farting and then some arguing and then some kids falling off chairs and being silly and annoying, but overall, it was a success. Everyone got to pick new jobs, and they will start on those tomorrow.
And as I write this at 8:41 on a Sunday night, the litter box is empty, the cat has been fed, the house has been vacuumed (most of it, anyway), the kitchen is clean, the kids have all put away their laundry, and the toilets are clean,
And all that was done by the kids without one single Costco Car Freak out.
I’m not sure I have ever been able to say that.
So I think we are on to a pretty good thing.
Check back next Sunday for more tips on how to start running a (successful) family meeting at your house!