All posts tagged family meetings

Give Family Meetings a Fresh Start


Now that we are full into school mode (and for many there is a tiny lull between fall and winter sports,) it’s time to get back to routines and schedules. Dare I say, it’s time to renew our commitment to the Family Meeting before the Holiday Season rolls around!

On the surface, the purpose of the Family Meeting may sound simple and straightforward…


  • Show appreciation
  • Distribute household work
  • Express concerns, identify problems and teach problem solving skills
  • Distribute allowance

…but when we look deeper, the benefits of holding a regular Family Meeting are anything but simple. The Family Meeting can almost be referred to as the engine that keeps families moving in a purposeful and positive direction. Without that forward momentum, many families find themselves stuck with problems and situations that just won’t go away.

So, here are some of the deeper reasons you may want to make Family Meetings part of your family routine, if you haven’t already:

  • Family Meetings allow you to experience your family’s growth, improvement and progress on a weekly basis.
  • It is the vehicle with which you can support your children’s growing independence.
  • The various components of the meeting teach your children how to communicate using mutually respectful dialogue – something that will pay dividends within your family at school, at work, and in their future relationships.
  • It provides a place for your children to recognize that they have a voice and responsibility within the family.
  • Your children will experience their family as the number one value because, each and every week, there is time allotted and dedicated to the health of the family.

Make time in your schedule every week to meet as a family. Only 15 minutes a week could get you past seemingly immovable roadblocks in a healthy and mutually respectful way, while giving you endless hours of enjoying each other’s company.

Ready to implement Family Meetings into your weekly routine? Sign up for our online course, today.

Still trying to decide if this strategy will make a difference for your family? Listen to our FREE Podcast.

Podcast: Contributions

In this conversation with Vicki Hoefle, we talk about contributions. Learning how to contribute to the household helps children develop self-esteem and resiliency, qualities that will support them for life. This episode explains how to encourage our children to contribute, including very young children.

Listen below and learn how to invite your kids to participate in the operations of the home. Would you like to quit your job as the maid?

Appreciations and Contributions

family meetingsMany families put off or hesitate coordinating family meetings or following through with contributions because they get “stuck” on logistics:

How do we do it? What does it look like? What if I do it wrong?

The answer is simply:

  1. Keep it simple,
  2. Start small (one task at a time)
  3. Be consistent.

Whether you’re stuck on the logistics or you could use some fresh ideas, take this inspiration from REAL families on our Facebook page and use them to create a system that works for you!

Note: If you’ve fallen off, you’ll notice that sometimes a reboot to the process can get your family back into the swing in no time. Consider scaling everything back for summer- just don’t drop it altogether. Think of the confidence your child will have dancing off to school after a summer of being invited to participate!

Thank you to the families who shared ideas and if you have a system- show it off so we can all stay inspired. You never know who might find your simple genius their game changer. Enjoy! Be sure to visit our Facebook wall for ideas and more motivators.

Click here to see the REAL FAMILY Systems!

Real Gift: Family Meetings

It’s the Holiday Season and people are running around frantically (and excitedly), checking tasks off the list and letting all the schedules slide. There’s an element of seasonal joy that comes with throwing it all to the wind, but come January 2nd, parents admit it’s harder to get back on track once they’ve let everyone fall off the wagon. I’m talking bed times, routines, video game limits, reading schedules, and all of that. It’s certainly not the end of the world to just let it go but there’s value in keeping a few of the non negotiables in tact, no matter what.

One of the most helpful tools in bringing everyone together, the Family Meeting, might be considered the first “structured” event to go. Parents think it may be inconvenient, as the family is traveling and staying up late wrapping presents – there is a sense that there’s just not enough time. Here’s where I’m suggesting you make time. Make time for your family meeting – if people are spread out, get on the phone, skype and have a chat. If you’re busy on the regularly scheduled night, make a lunch date the next – whatever you do, don’t skip the chance to stay connected in what can be the most frazzled, fried and checked-out couple of weeks all year long! (Those appreciations are like the big bow on the Holiday Season – and they cost nothing).

Family Meetings help keep kids’ feet on the ground by remembering each other’s feelings and presence within the family. Family Meetings also help keep the “out of control” stresses in check – kids are using their money to purchase gifts and materials to make gifts or make donations and you’ll have help keeping up with household contributions! Plus, a little problem solving during the madness can be a very good thing – the kids can come together and make decisions on real family issues (like what to do over vacation, who sits where on the ride to Grandma’s, how they prefer to stay relaxed when it gets nutty vs. you (mom or dad) micromanaging and peeling your kids out of the situations as they arise!)

If you aren’t familiar with Family Meetings, then check out our free podcast and find out first hand what an amazing source of bonding and relationship building they can provide. We welcome you to join the thousands of parents who use them to stay connected and keep the family relationship in a good, solid place. We offer plenty of blogs on the topic in our archives. In fact, if you do use family meetings and know a family who might “appreciate” them in their house, then feel free to share this post or the podcast link.


Are you raising a bully? Part II

If you liked last week’s post from Annie Fox and were looking for some follow up solutions, check out Annie Fox’s second blog post My Child? A Bully? Part II. You will find 6 suggestions for addressing the bullying behavior.

Among them are a few of my recommendations as well.

At the top of the list is the Family Meeting. As the mother of 5 and part of a blended family with kids who have very strong personalities and a mother who is not opposed to using “power” to get her own way, our Family Meetings were a venue that held each and every one of us accountable for our behavior. My husband and I experienced the same consequences the kids did when we resorted to any bullying tactics to get our own way.

For those of you who know me, you will know that this didn’t happen often, but even I can be pushed into behaving in despicable ways. Luckily, we created a powerful tool for supporting each of us as we grew into our most respectful selves.

My second recommendation for addressing bullying behavior is to work with an outside source. Whether you see a parent coach, a traditional therapist or a member of the clergy, getting an outside perspective, having an impartial ear and a voice of reason will go a long way at “rebooting” your family and giving every member the skills they need to stay respectful and thoughtful with each other as well as everyone else in their lives.

“The Bully, the Bullied and the Bystander” by Barbara Coloroso is still my hands down favorite book for truly learning about, understanding and then addressing the issue of bullying.

Over the years I have been asked repeatedly to address the subject of bullying and I have declined each and every time. Instead, I choose to focus on the task of teaching families how to create an atmosphere that is pro-active and provides opportunities for building strong relationships.

All of us at Parenting On Track™ encourage you to start creating this atmosphere of mutual respect, encouragement, contribution and cooperation right away. Don’t wait until you see the signs of bullying in your child. Don’t wait until you experience yourself (not parenting from your best) in your child’s behavior to do something differently. Build healthy relationships today and offer your children another way to “be” in relationship with themselves, their siblings, their friends, and the community at large. Click here and learn more about our multi-media home program now.

Sibling Appreciation

This story was sent to me by one of our Parenting On Track™ moms. She does not have a blog that she uses to journal her experiences, so I thought this would be a good story to share on our blog.

Here it is. Enjoy.
Last night I overheard a brief interaction between my two oldest children. Not much for some families but for me – it was enough to bring me to my knees. The exchange was a complete contrast to the relationship I had with my own sibling growing up, which was, in a word, non-existent. Sad? Maybe, but that’s the reality. We have seen each other 2 times in 2 years. Here is how this relationship with my sibling plays out in my life now, as the mother of 4.

I would say I am like most parents in that, the reality of my own personal sibling relationship weighs heavily on my beliefs around my children’s relationships with each other. Before the Parenting On Track program, I was crazy insane every time my kids would tease each other or give the cold shoulder or any type of interaction that was not loving and appreciative. Within an instant I was transported into the future, where as adult siblings, they didn’t speak to each other, didn’t make time for each other. In fact, they spent so little time getting to know each other as kids, that they would have NO idea what their siblings interest, values or talents were. And to make it worse, I truly believed that because of this “lack of relationship” they would carry around a big black void in their life. Intense and very real to me.

Rewind to my early days with Parenting On Track. I took a leap of faith and listened as Vicki told us that we would “get what you feed in your homes”. What she was suggesting was that I ignore the fighting, the teasing, the outdoing, the put downs. I can’t tell you how hard that was for me to swallow. What AM I supposed to do then?

Here is what Vicki suggested:

  • Notice your children’s strengths and ignore the rest.
  • If you want kids who are nice to each other and who like each other, hold your weekly Family Meetings and teach your children how to give and receive appreciations.

Two seemingly simple ideas. So, I started ignoring any fighting, teasing, outdoing, put downing and started having Family Meetings once a week that included Appreciations.

Fast forward to now and lo and behold, after 9 years of Family Meetings, I live with 4 children ages, 14, 12, 8 and 5 who are all best of friends. I experience sibling relationships that feed my soul and restore my faith in what is possible.

Here is the interaction that inspired me to send this story to Vicki.

Peter and Sheila were up, later than I was, studying for mid-term exams. I heard a big rustle from Peter’s room and Sheila says from hers, “Peter, what are you doing?”

He replies gently, “Just going downstairs to get something to eat before bed.”

“Oh”, she says.

“Good night” he says.

“Good night, I love you” she says.

“I love you too, Sheila”, he says.

This is what is possible between a brother and sister smack dab in the middle of adolescence, when you practice Family Meetings each week and take the time to teach your kids how to notice each other’s strengths and give them practice telling each other how much they appreciate one and another.

Bliss, Peace, and Family Meetings! If you do one thing from this program, do appreciations at Family Meeting. The pay-off is priceless.

For more information on the Parenting On Track™ program, visit

Stop the Fighting

sibling-rivalryThe news media, blogging world, and twitters alike have all had a lot to say about Madlyn Primoff, the New York mother of two squabbling tweener girls who dropped them off on the side of road and drove off without them. For those of you who would rather save yourself the time, the trouble, and the hassle that that decision may cause, this post is for you.

Listen, nobody wants to drop their kids off on the side of the road because the fighting has gotten so bad that it is a danger to drive, but I say bravo for at least keeping the other drivers’ safety in mind.

What occurs to me is this:

Kids fight. Parents accept that this is a natural part of life. And to a certain extent, I agree. But come on, when a 10- and 12-year-old can’t get along in a car for a 30-minute drive home, something’s wrong.
It IS possible to create a balance between natural sibling conflict and siblings who get along. It IS possible to live in a peaceful house, with children who respect and love each other. What does it take? It takes time—a little training—and faith, with a capital F.

I’m gonna cut to the chase here because it seems unduly cruel to make you read through a bunch of crap to get to a few ideas that have worked for a mother of five (now teens), who are not all biologically related. First I want to say this:

  • My children are average, everyday kids. Nothing special about them.
  • I am an average, everyday mother. Nothing special about me.

But I figured out, a long time ago, that fighting isn’t usually because kids “can’t stand each other”, and although this isn’t where it starts, if it goes on long enough, it is where you end. So here it is, a mother with 20 years’ field experience, sharing a few things that can make life more pleasant and save you from bloggers around the country trashing you because you made a decision that seemed downright brilliant at the time, and regrettable 12 hours later.

PROBLEM: If you are still trying to GET your kids to get along, you are wasting your time. In fact, you are making things worse. I could write an entire book on this topic alone.

SOLUTION: All I can say is this: STOP! Your children are more than their fighting. As soon as you start to notice all the other things they are, the fighting will start to diminish. Hey, don’t knock it until you try it.

PROBLEM: Kids fight for their parents. Yes—they do.

SOLUTION: Just watch what happens when you act like you don’t notice and walk out of the room or you find something more interesting to pay attention to. Either the fight follows you—told you—or it stops (told you again). Now, I will say here, that the longer the kids have been at it, the more invested in it they are, so don’t be surprised if things get worse before they get better. But here’s the thing, if this is the way you connect to your kids (talking, reminding, yelling, and threatening are all forms of negative connection), then your kids are not going to give up the fighting, without someone offering them another way to connect with their parents in a positive way.

PROBLEM: The number one reason kids fight is this: Parents doing things for their children that they could do themselves, and as a result, 1) the kids start to question their own ability to do ANYTHING well besides fight with a sibling; and 2) the kids are bored beyond belief because instead of being trained on how to manage their lives, which would keep them busy for years, they have nothing to do but start picking on the person closest to them.

SOLUTION: Invite, Train, Encourage and Support your children, as they begin to engage in navigating the hills and valleys of their own lives. When you put your time and energy into this endeavor, and you find yourself and your children enthusiastic, excited and connected around this whole NEW relationship, the fighting seems much less INTERESTING to your kids.

Yes, I know it sounds too good to be true, but that doesn’t mean it is. I know. This is my big secret weapon (thanks go to Dr. Alfred Adler for this).

Communication 101

coupletSo much of what we do here at Parenting On Track™ is focused on enhancing the relationship we have with our children. Once we become parents, we tend to focus on our kids, and sometimes this concentration can come at the expense of the relationship we have with our spouse. Even though this may be the “norm”—it doesn’t have to be!

It’s so easy to forget that the relationship we have with our spouse is the BEST model we can give our kids for how to love, care for, and, most importantly, communicate with other people. We all know, but it’s easy to forget, that our children are watching us—all the time. They see how we react to, or interact with, each other: are we kind, aloof or somewhere in between? Do we laugh together, or do we laugh more easily and frequently with our friends? Do we thank each other for the small things—or does it take a momentous event to get a nod of acknowledgment?

You may have to take some time to think about the answers to those questions, but it’s guaranteed your children wouldn’t. They know how you and your spouse communicate and, chances are, when they find themselves in their first relationship, they will act similarly to the way you do now.

So, now you may be wondering what you can do NOW that would make an impact in this area? What can you do that would open up the lines of communication with your spouse and show your children how people in a healthy, loving relationship communicate with each other (without saying, “Hey Honey, we need to be nicer to each other… now. Oh yeah, and in front of the kids, ok?”).

The first answer I come to is Appreciations. Appreciations is the part of the Family Meeting where each family member appreciates every other family member for something that they did during the past week. It is the time that we get to tell each other how our individual traits and contributions positively impact the family as a whole. This is a great time to single out our spouses, in front of the kids, and give them an appreciation for something special about them that maybe we take for granted; or appreciate something that they do every day that makes our life easier; or perhaps just appreciate them for who they are.

Start now and use the Appreciations section of the Family Meeting to jumpstart your communication with your spouse. If it helps you to say the things that often go unsaid, or to give voice to those feelings that you never mention—isn’t it worth it?

Get More Play in Your Day!

play-postThere has been a lot of talk in the media in recent years about the importance of playtime in the academic lives of our children. While we once thought that playtime should be restricted to after-school activities, current research tells us that is no longer the case.

New research suggests that play and down time may be as important to a child’s academic experience as reading, science and math, and that regular recess, fitness or nature time can influence behavior, concentration and even grades.” (See Parker-Pope article below).

Unless you are a teacher, you are probably thinking, “What has this got to do with me and parenting?” The answer: it can mean as much as you want it to. Most parents I know are looking for ways to help their children succeed academically, and this usually means helping them with their homework or hiring a tutor, etc… So I am excited to tell all of you that it can also mean—go out and PLAY with your kids!

Maybe you already do this, and, if so, give yourself a well-deserved pat on the back. But maybe playtime is lacking in your routine and you need some help fitting it in. Here are some suggestions on how you can do that.

First, sit down with your family and talk about this very topic. Tell them what you have learned and discuss how you think “playtime” together could become a new value that your family develops. Find out what your children think and what some of their ideas are on the subject.

Second, involve your children in deciding when and how you will “play” together. This can be done during your weekly Family Meeting. Set aside five minutes of the Family Meeting to further discuss ideas on what types of activities everyone would enjoy, and then schedule a time during the following week to do one of those activities together. Make sure you follow up at the next Family Meeting to see how everyone thinks it went and to schedule additional activities.

Investing your time and energy in “playing” with your children will not only benefit them academically, it will benefit you all as a family, emotionally, if you use the playtime to connect with each other.

When your kids are grown and have left your house, they might remember that you helped them with their math homework—but they will definitely remember that you took them fishing on Sundays, hiked the trails to look for bugs, or kicked the ball around in the backyard before dinner.

The 3 R’s? A Fourth Is Crucial, Too: Recess” by Tara Parker-Pope, The New York Times, Feb 23, 2009.

How to Stop Doing It All

quit doing everything for your familyDo you ever feel like putting a “Help Wanted” sign out in front of your house? You know, a sign that says, “Help Wanted for cleaning, dishes, laundry, pet care…” or whatever it is that you or your spouse seem to spend all of your time doing? If so, you aren’t alone.

So many parents I talk to tell me that they are tired of being “the maid” in their houses. And do you know what my answer is? Stop. Stop being the maid, and train your children to do the housework with you. Is this the quick and easy answer? No, it can take a lot of time and a significant amount of patience from both parents. Will it result in long-lasting change to the family dynamic and result in kids who help out and parents who are free to do other things? YES!

Here’s how it works.
For example: you would like your children to help clean up the kitchen after dinner. This job can start as one of the weekly contributions that they pick at the Family Meeting.

Start with: Take everyone’s dishes to the counter

After they have done the job successfully for awhile, a month or more for little ones – a week or two for older children,

Add to the skills:

  • Take everyone’s dishes to the counter
  • Rinse and load into the dishwasher

Build the skills from there one at a time, week by week (or month by month).

Finally a child of about eight or nine is able to do the following:

  • Take everyone’s dishes to the counter
  • rinse and load into the dishwasher
  • Start the dishwasher
  • Wash out pots and pans
  • Put all food away
  • Wipe down the table and counter-tops

Imagine how taking away some of these daily chores—the ones that take up so much of your time and zap your energy—could change your life. It will enable you to be emotionally available for your kids, kids who are not getting into fights with each other because they are busy doing useful things. Sounds blissful, doesn’t it?

More information on inviting your children, read Duct Tape Parenting.

Appreciations – What’s the Point?

appreciation-postI Appreciate …

  • “I appreciate that you shared your poster with me, so I could have one on my side of the room.” – Child, eight years old.

  • “I appreciate that you included your brother in what you were doing this afternoon when he was bored. You were able to make both of you happy.” – Mom of two, ages five and two.

  • “I appreciate that you stopped doing your own homework to help me with my history project (to sibling). I know you had to stay up a little late to get your own work done.” – Child, 15 years old.

  • “Thank you for playing with me (to a sibling).” – Child, two years old.

  • “I appreciate that you don’t embarrass me in front of my friends (to parents).” – Child, 12 years old.

  • “Dad, I appreciate that you put up the swing set for us, because you had a lot to do to fix up the house.” – Child, four years old.

These are some real life examples of appreciations that have been shared during the Family Meetings of families I know.

Imagine if you and your family shared appreciations each week during your weekly Family Meeting. Is it reasonable to think that these kind words and caring attitudes would eventually spill over into the conversations you have during the rest of the week? And imagine that soon, this kindness and appreciative nature would spill over into your conversations with colleagues at work, and your children’s conversations with friends and teachers at school?

Imagine if we all sent our children out into the world looking for the good in people and then appreciating it. Imagine the impact it would have on everyone concerned. It all starts with one appreciation, once a week, at the Family Meeting.

More information about Parenting On Track™ Family Meetings and Appreciations can be found in Chapter 9 of the Parenting On Track™ Home Program.

What Family Meetings Mean to Me

family-meetingsThere aren’t any strategies in the Parenting On Track™ Program that I don’t use with my own family. One strategy that has played a particularly important role in the evolution of my family has been Family Meetings.

When my children were very young, Family Meetings helped us define, at the very core, what kind of family we wanted to “be”.  The result of that early work is seen in the individuals, family members and community members we have become.

Initially, Family Meetings were a way for us to come together each week and invest in the health of our family. It was the place that taught my kids about kindness through appreciations and that their contribution to family work made the whole family run more smoothly.  They learned about money and, instead of fighting when we shopped together, we looked forward to this shared experience. It was only later that I realized the impact that allowance had played in my children’s healthy relationship with money.

As life got more challenging, Family Meetings became a safe place for us to bring both individual and family problems. Because everyone in the family was invested in finding a solution, there was little or no time spent on blaming or sabotage. Instead, my children became proficient at identifying problems and coming up with solutions that worked for everyone.

The older the kids got, the more Family Meetings began to change. Because there were fewer and fewer problems to work on, it left time to talk about vacations, community service, college, travel and other interests in our kids’ lives. Because all five of the kids got along so well (weekly appreciations will do that to a family), they looked for ways to appreciate other people in their lives that might otherwise go unnoticed. Because contributions were a way of “being” and not just doing, they spread their wings and began working outside of the home to bring in money and gain experience that would be useful when they could get “real” jobs at 14.

Without Family Meetings, we might have done what so many other families end up doing—trying to deal with daily life as it comes toward you like a crashing wave. Sometimes you can ride those waves, but sometimes those waves can crush a family of seven. We never had to worry about that with Family Meetings. In a way, Family Meetings became the lifeboat that we traveled in together, navigating both the rough waters and calm seas. The key part was that we did it together, every week at the same time and place, as a family.

Because I think Family Meetings play such an important role in the nurturing of a healthy family, I decided to take the month of March to put out a series of articles about the components of Family Meetings and the role each of those components can play in promoting healthy relationships within your family. So, stayed tuned; next week we’ll talk about Appreciations.

Learn more about Parenting On Track.

Show Me The Money!

The economy is bad. We all know it, and we are all worried about it. We are a nation of consumers, and the credit card companies and mortgage lenders have convinced us to feel good about spending money we don’t really have. And so here we are in 2009, in one of the worst economic crises since the Great Depression.

What’s a parent to do about all of this? Start training your kids about money NOW.

Don’t wait! Your children are never too young to learn the value of money and, more importantly, to begin to develop a healthy relationship with money.

You cannot teach your children how to manage money by just talking to them about it, or by lecturing them about it, or by sharing your own wisdom with them (nice as that would be). Kids have to practice. Yes, practice how to handle money from the youngest of ages.

Think about it: wouldn’t you rather have your child, at age five, practice spending and saving money for the first time with the small amount of allowance they get, than have your child, at age 18, practice for the first time with his or her brand new credit card?

At Parenting On Track™, we believe that learning how to spend, save and give away money is a life skill that takes many years to acquire. You, as parents, have the opportunity to give your children the chance to practice this skill as soon as they are old enough not to put the money into their mouths. You do this by giving them an allowance at the weekly Family Meeting and, well, that’s it.

Once you have given your children their allowance, you no longer have any say over what they do with it. Take a deep breath; there’s more. On the other hand, you aren’t required to buy anything for them beyond their basic needs. So, this means that

  • When they ask, in the grocery store, for that piece of candy, you get to say, YES. “Did you bring your money?”
  • And when they want that designer jacket that all their friends have, you say, YES. “Do you have enough money saved to buy it?”
  • And finally, when they ask for their own cell phone, you can say, YES. “Will your allowance and part-time job cover the monthly bill?”

The best way to teach your children the value of money is to allow them to learn it for themselves. For more information on allowance, money management and helping your children create a healthy relationship with money, check out the MP3 on Money Management on our website. It’s never too early or too late to invest in promoting a healthy relationship between your children and money.

Book: For the Nightstand

This is our new monthly column aimed to inspire, connect and help you create family memories. We will be recommending books, games, activities, vacation sites and anything else we can think of to encourage parents and children to get the most out of their time together.

Enjoy our first recommendation.
Raising Kids Who Can, by Betty Lou Bettner, Ph.D., and Amy Lew, Ph.D.
This little diamond in the rough reveals the nuts and bolts of Family Meetings in under two hundred pages! I have to be honest – this is one of my favorite books and my copy will attest to that. Talk about a Roadmap to follow, this book will come in handy whether you are just starting your Family Meetings or you are already a pro. As if that weren’t enough, if you are one of the many parents still confused about HOW to incorporate the Crucial C’s (Connect, Capable, Count and Courage) into your life, you won’t be after this read.

Betty Lou and Amy do an amazing job weaving the Crucial C’s into daily life and family meetings through examples and stories. This book is easy to follow, fun to read, makes sense and will continue to be a resource for years to come.

Only Fifteen Minutes for Summer Success

Only Fifteen Minutes for Summer SuccessAre you excited by the possibilities of summer fun and the chance to sleep in?

Eager to reconnect with the kids or finish a long-forgotten project?

Looking forward to short day trips or an extended family vacation?

Or are you nervous about child care or too much downtime for your teenagers?

Consider what your summer might look like if you created a plan – a plan that takes everyone in the family into account, a plan that’s created during a family meeting where everyone, especially your kids, are encouraged to participate in its design.

Family meetings are the perfect time to prepare for summer success. If you’ve taken one of my classes, you already know the importance of family meetings. If you have them every week, you are probably already experiencing the benefits.

The purpose of family meetings is to appreciate each other, delegate household responsibilities, solve problems, and distribute money. And at this time of year, they’re a great tool to set the stage and plan for summer success.