by Mark Timm, CEO Ziglar Family
It’s that time again! Back-to-school season has begun all around the country, and whether your kids have started back already or won’t until after Labor Day, it’s time for families to get back into the school year routine again.
To be honest, as much as we love the laid-back, easy-going vibe of summer, we tend to be more “with it” and on top of things during the school year. With a large family like ours, living for too long without a plan can start to feel a bit like chaos.
One of the best tools we’ve found for getting back on track — and staying there — is our weekly family meeting. Now, we don’t intentionally plan to discontinue them over the summer, but because the kids are in and out, here, there and everywhere, we end up letting them slide, and by the time school rolls around, you can tell we need to get those important weekly family sessions re-started, and quickly!
For the Timm Family, our meetings have become the glue that holds our family “business” together. The meetings allow us to coordinate and communicate, as well as to just enjoy each other’s company. The older the kids get, the harder it is to get everyone in one place for an extended time.
But as critical and foundational as family meetings are to our success as a family today, they were probably the most difficult piece for us to start. Initially, our kids were not on board at all. It took some time for us to overcome that resistance and learn how to conduct family meetings that everyone actually wanted to attend.
If you’re thinking about starting weekly family meetings as a way to help your family to thrive this school year, you’ll want to know the three essential steps we discovered for overcoming resistance and getting everything flowing smoothly.
3 Essential Steps for Productive Family Meetings
1. Be Consistent.
When we first started to hold family meetings, we were not consistent. For our kids, that meant they were often caught off-guard and arrived mentally unprepared to participate. We often didn’t give them much notice; we’d just say, “Oh, we have some time, let’s do a family meeting.” But they would have other things that they were thinking about doing. It made it very difficult to pull the family together in the right frame of mind.
Because we were not predictable, we often set ourselves up for conflict. Almost without fail, when we announced a family meeting, one of our children would say, “I have a big exam tomorrow. I need to study.” Then we were in a no-win situation of our own making, being forced to choose between having them study or go to the family meeting.
One of the most important steps we took to solve this problem was to make our family meeting consistent—same day, same time, every week. When our children knew they could plan around it, we could expect them to do so. They no longer had an excuse for skipping the meeting, and we no longer had to make the tough call between two important priorities.
2. Have Fun.
I’ll admit it—our first meetings were boring. They just weren’t enjoyable at all. None of us want to go to lifeless meetings at work that feel like drudgery, right? In the same way, we learned quickly that with kids we needed some entertainment value so that they saw the experience as a positive one.
We soon figured out that what works in business meetings also works at home—food. That’s right, we resorted to bribing them with special treats. For example, we generally don’t keep ice cream handy at home, but we bought some to enjoy at the family meeting. News of the ice cream’s arrival created a buzz about the meeting, and the kids all showed up, ready for a fun time.
When the weather is cooperative, we love to cook s’mores around the fire. So we started doing some outside family meetings and used the s’mores as our special treat, setting up a s’more-gasboard from which the kids could create their own sweet treats. We all began to associate family meetings with treats we don’t normally get.
But more than having cool food, we focused primarily on having fun. We reflected on funny things that happened throughout the week and laughed about ourselves. By focusing on fun, our family cleared the way for more productive conversations to take place.
3. Make a Plan
One reason we struggled so much at the outset was that we simply had no idea what we were doing. The early family meetings didn’t have a clear agenda, so we didn’t really know what we were going to talk about.
Our kids could tell we were not organized, so they didn’t have a lot of respect for what we were trying to do. The more disciplined and intentional that my wife, Ann, and I got about preparing for the meeting, the more the kids engaged. It was as if they thought, Hey, they’re on this. They’ve talked about this in advance. They’ve got an agenda, and they’re following it.
Even if your plan isn’t complex, have one, execute it, and be done. Don’t think that a long meeting is necessarily a better one.
Our family meetings are now very consistent. We have a ton of fun and always know exactly what we want to accomplish. If you’d like to know more about our family meetings and some other strategies we use to keep our family life running smoothly, you can visit MarkTimm.com and request my free eBook: You and Your Family Can Win at Home.
Do you incorporate weekly family meetings into your schedule? What are some other tips and strategies that have worked for you to keep your family on-track during the school year? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!