5 Reasons Your Last Family Meeting Failed

Family meetings.  Either your last one bombed or you have no idea where to start. Avoid these five common pitfalls to have a successful family meeting. 

I walk into the kitchen and immediately notice them.


All over the counters.  

Left by my daughter and her LOVE of all things bread. 

The slice of sourdough pops from the toaster.  She takes it out, slathers it with butter and leaves breadcrumbs in her carb-loving wake.

Why am I the one always cleaning up breadcrumbs?

And it’s not just her.  My son with his waffles.  My husband with his bagel and cream cheese.

Here I am, using the cutting board and washing it off after each toast encounter so WHY AM I CLEANING BREADCRUMBS?!?

Can you relate?

That job that always seems to fall on your lap even though you didn’t make the mess.

Or maybe, that’s every job.

Me?  I called a family meeting.  These meetings are an essential part of using positive discipline at home.  Do you do these in your home?

Family meetings changed our family

If you’ve ever felt resentful for doing the same job in your home over and over again, you need to start family meetings.

You need to, mama.

It’s going to make your life much more fun because it’ll be your bridge for  the rest of your family contributing to work in the house.  

Plus, family meetings help kids practice communication skills and reflect on feelings.

Right now, maybe you’re: 

  • Confused about how family meetings work
  • Worried that no one will participate or,
  • Don’t want to start one more thing that you’ll only quit a few weeks later.

It’s OK if you’ve tried family meetings before and failed.  You now know one way family meetings didn’t work for you. 

We’re going to make you successful with this one and we’re going to start slow.

There are a few reasons your last family meeting failed.  Let’s fix that now:

1. It was WAY too long

You had to stop the last family meeting because of your 8-year-old protesting “Do we have to do this?” 

You shot him a side eye and kept talking.

When you’re first starting family meetings, keep them short.  Aim for 15 minutes at first.  You can try for longer if you have teenagers but initially think “the shorter the better.”

I would recommend, at max, your family meeting should be less than 30 minutes. 

2. You got down to business too fast

We’re achievers.  We want to get things done, however, you made a critical mistake when starting a family meeting.

You didn’t allow the time for fun.

We made this mistake, too.

Before you get down to the conflict, start each family meeting with a positive note.  

This can be a family board game (like this one), or pulling out the conversation cards.

3. You only focused on the problems

The human brain is attracted to the negative.  It’s why we can always remember the bad parts of our days and strain to think of the positive. 

That’s why in addition to talking about the problems in the house you need to add a compliments practice.

Start each family meeting with every family member saying at least one nice comment about another family member.

Watch out for those backwards compliments tweens tend to give, too.  It’s typical.  But get ready to ask for another compliment when your daughter tells your son,”Bobby, you don’t smell RIGHT NOW.”

If this happens, ask her to rephrase her compliment and try again. 

4. Only ONE person talked the entire meeting

As we sat down to dinner, I opened our family meeting.

“The breadcrumbs on the counter are driving me crazy.  Can we talk about how we can fix this?”

We talked and now my kids are responsible for wiping down the kitchen counters.  Parenting win!

Done.  Story over.

“Wait! I have something I’d like to talk about in this family meeting,” my 12-year-old daughter announced.

“What’s that?” I asked.

“Getting me a phone!”

Whoa… that was NOT what I called this family meeting for!  

I calmed my breathing, Frankly, I had so many reservations about getting her a phone.

I’m scared that she’ll get together with her friends and instead of talking with each other they’ll be posting on Instagram LIVE and taking selfies.  

(Which definitely happens now…)

They’ll all turn into unempathetic zombies incapable of human conversation who’ll develop serious mental health problems which will cause overwhelming feelings of loneliness and despair. 

Big breath in.

“Ok… tell us your case.”

She laid out how she could go more places without having to worry if she’d have a wifi signal and not worry about being able to reach us.

I’ll think about the phone. 

For you mama, let other family members discuss problems they have as well.  It will be SUPER uncomfortable at first.

But, necessary.

5. You didn’t have a plan for the family meeting

Have you ever been to those meetings at work that are so random, you don’t know when it’ll end?

Yes?  That can happen with family meetings.

To fix this, post an agenda to the fridge at the beginning of the week and let family members write down what they want to discuss.

Don’t feel like you have to address EVERY THING on the agenda!  If the meeting is going too long, stop it.  You can come back to where you left off the next week.

When will you try your family meeting?

I understand what it feels like to try something and fail.  But, failure isn’t fatal.  

If your last family meeting bombed (or if you’re so scared of it bombing that you don’t want to start one), stick to these steps:

  • Keep it short
  • Start with something fun
  • Give compliments
  • Give every family member time to talk
  • Use an agenda

I can’t wait to hear how it goes.  Commit to having a family meeting right now! 

Please tell us in the comments when you plan to have your next family meeting. 

JoAnn Crohn

Administrator at No Guilt Mom
JoAnn Crohn has contributed 2 articles on https://www.noguiltmom.com since October 9, 2018.

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