From Dr. Jane's Notebook
Revival of the Family Meeting
In these very political times, it is useful to consider the notion of family
government. Families are, afterall, like small countries. They function on the basis of
laws, boundaries and traditions. They are in a constant state of change, based on the ages
and stages of their constituents. And it is the ongoing challenge of the leadership, to
remain representative of the people and responsive to their needs.
As you consider your family's style of government, I offer the following ideas.
- Families need strong heads of state. Whatever the age of your child, parents need to be
clearly "in charge". As parents, our role is to anticipate the future, plan for
future needs, and manage current projects. Children want their views to be heard, but they
clearly rely on their parents to help manage their lives.
- Family governments need to be protective. As our children venture out in their lives,
interacting with other adults and institutions, they need a certain amount of protection.
Children often lack the experience to recognize danger, manage conflict or negotiate
unknown difficulties. As parents, we need to represent and support our childrens' rights.
Above all, children value their parents' loyalty.
- Family governments need to be representative. While there was a time when children were
seen but not heard, those times have clearly gone. Just as we want them to listen to our
views, it is important to listen to our kids. As the heads of state, parents should decide
which issues are "family issues" and include their children in those votes. When
children have a vote, it is likely that they will be more cooperative with the final
- Family meetings are the legislative body within the family. Whether you are planning
your family vacation, sharing important information, or considering a new decision, the
Family Meeting can be a useful tool for family communication. Family meetings can be
organized in any number of ways, but it is important that they follow some rules of order.
A simple yet effective way of managing cross-talk is the passing of an object with the
simple rule, whoever holds the object gets to talk without being interrupted. The object
is then passed around from one member to the next. Family meetings can be held on a
regular, or as-needed basis. All members should be present and minutes can be taken if
Our family recently held a Family Meeting. The issue: whether to adopt a kitten. New
pets are the responsibility of everyone in the family. After everyone had spoken in turn,
a vote was taken. The "Kitten Bill" passed unanimously with a "Puppy
amendment" being tabled until the Fall.
A family is more than just a group of people who live together. It is a group that
depends on each other, who have a shared history together, and who will share future
responsibilities and relationships... forever.
ęCopyright, 1993, 1995, Jane R. Rosen-Grandon. All rights reserved.
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Last Updated October 17, 1998 by Gary M. Grandon,