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Relevance of Family Meetings
Expert advice by veteran Family Therapist and Psychologist
I work a lot with children and their families. The biggest complaint I get from parents is about the disrespect and arguing over doing chores. I strongly recommend no arguing with children, especially teenagers. That is a fool’s game. I would tell any child being disrespectful; you can talk to me when you are willing to talk to me respectfully. I would then disengage.
Instead I recommend monthly family meetings, more often if an emergency arises. These meetings are scheduled and everyone in the family attends, and there are no interruptions allowed. This is our time to talk about how the family is doing, and the children have a say.
We talk about who does what. Chores are assigned according to age. Even very little children can take their dirty dishes to the sink. Older children must realize that the little guys cannot do as much as they can, and that the day will come for the little guys as well.
I don’t recommend consequences for young children. I like behaviour charts where the children can mark down when they have completed a chore. This is done with a star or little sticker just to make it more fun. At the end of the week, if the chart is full, they get to pick the Saturday night video or what the family will be having for Saturday night supper. They do not get an expensive gift.
For children with ADHD, sometimes they need to see the reward before they will work for it. For these children I would make up a little treasure chest of things from the dollar store so the child can see the prize. If they complete chores as agreed upon, they get to pick one thing.
There are three things to remember about chores. First, the parent should demonstrate what they are looking for in, for example, a clean bedroom. Too many times, I have had kids tell me that they will clean the bedroom and mum or dad will say, “That’s not good enough”, but never explain why. The parent has to demonstrate what a clean bedroom looks like. Also putting things away properly, and what do they have to do for the parent to decide the bedroom has been cleaned properly. Is a clean bedroom, all the clothes put away properly, and nothing shoved under the bed?
The second thing is how many days a chore has to be done to get the privilege at the end of the week. Is it 5 out of 7, 7 out of 7. This is decided at the family meeting.
Thirdly, a time limit has to be set on the chore. Does the garbage have to be emptied by 6 o’clock in the evening?
We do make exceptions for special occasions. With our own children, mum and dad covered the chores if the child had a party or a concert. However, if the child wants to take on a sport where they need to attend once or twice a week, this has to be decided at the family meeting, so chores can be discussed again.
With older children, we use consequences. By that I mean removed privileges. Consequences need to be immediate and appropriate. We do not tell children that they can’t watch next week’s game. Instead it must be immediate. The consequence has to happen tonight. We don’t take away the European trip they have been planning for two years with the school.
Children get to have a say in what the consequence will be. If it is losing the phone, then the decision is for how long. If it is not playing video games for a day, then the computer, laptops, tablets and phones have to be turned over.
If the parents set consequences, then they must follow through. Parents must never undermine one another. If a consequence has been agreed upon, then both parents must support one another to make sure it happens.
What are the exceptions? If the family has been away for the weekend, having fun at a sport or just doing things together, we do not tell children to do chores the minute they walk in the door. The same goes for a teenager that has just played at a music competition, participated in the science fair or played in a sports tournament; we do not tell them “you’ve had your fun, now do your chores”. We savor the good times with them. Chores can wait until tomorrow, unless the dog needs to go outside.
Relationships are vital to the human experience. Relationships and the way a person perceives a relationship should be starting at the moment the person is born. The attachment of a child to his/her parent(s) will be a model for relationships with friends, intimate partners, roommates, bosses, etc. Romantic relationships and marriages seem to be the most prevalent among patients seen in online therapy. Communication is one of the most important aspects of a relationship including how we talk to each other, what we say, when we say it, and what we really are trying to say. It seems most people in a troubled relationship believe they know how the other person thinks and act upon these false perceptions. In marriage and family therapy arguing in a troubled relationship becomes a pathological pattern of coping with anger, resentment, hurt, jealousy, and is called the “dance”. Couples argue for the sake of arguing. They bring past mistakes the other person made and use them as a weapon to gain ground or power against their foe. If you do this you are hurting you, the other and the entire relationship.
The key to healthy communication is being humble and honest with one another, forgiving one another and not holding those mistakes against the other person. In an argument timeouts are a very easy and successful avenues of allowing each other to calm down and thinking with logical thought versus thinking with pure emotions. Decisions should NEVER be made when highly emotional, logical thought is minimized and instant gratification is sought when emotions are at their peek. The divorce rate in the United States is around 50% and divorce is proven over and over again to have ill effects on each partner and the children. Living together before marriage has been found to be the number one variable in predicting divorce. Commitment is diminished when a couple goes from living separate to living together and then getting married. The commitment and feeling of being married has been spoiled by living together and the sanctity and fortitude marriage is supposed to bring decreases and makes divorce an easy escape. People are disillusioned and somewhat delusional when they believe living together will help them make a more informed decision about getting married.
In any relationship there are bound to be times when the other person does certain behaviors which negatively have an impact on the relationship. It is not good to “suppress” negative feelings towards someone as they always come out in an uncontrolled and pathological way. There are also times when you will have to decide “Is this worth bringing up or is the problem actually me”. There is nothing wrong with doing a quick “check-in” with the person you are in a relationship with. While it might be uncomfortable to ask “Is there anything I am doing or saying that bothers you?” but for the health of you and your relationship this helps avoid blowups and arguments that severely damage the relationship. Yelling in an argument, name calling, talking down to someone, or demeaning someone all equal different ways of verbal and emotional abuse. Neglecting a partner and putting yourself first is a sure fire way to create problems in the relationship. Loving someone means serving each other and communicating with a balance of grace and justice. It is also important to work together as a team to develop boundaries in your relationship. This helps increase the quality and strength of the relationship when working together towards the same goal. This article is just a snippet to help aid people in their everyday relationships but simple, small things, the way we talk to each other, the validation of each other, a text message, doing something without being asked can make the difference between joy or pain.
It is not too late to save your relationship or marriage… Talk to an online counselor now!