Meetings serve as the hub of family success, just as they do for business success. Family meetings are critical for our family of teen and pre-teen kids. But what if your family has younger children? Will having regular meetings still work for you?
To answer that question, it might be helpful to think of a younger family as a start-up business. Like a start-up, younger families are often extremely busy. The executive team (Mom and Dad) wears a lot of different hats. And there’s always a significant learning curve because everything is new.
Are meetings important when a business is in start-up mode? Of course they are; however, they might look different than they do a decade later. There usually is no policy manual or pre-set format for the meetings. All of that comes later as the need arises. A start-up tends to be more fluid, with less formal structure in place. Meetings may take place on the go, around a cup of coffee with feet propped up on an oversized sofa in a rented loft. In my case, we started our business out of a garage – but we still had meetings, even if they weren’t as formal as they are now.
We had meetings because we knew we wanted to be intentional about building something that would last and flourish as it grew. The same is true for families. Younger families can position themselves for future success by getting into the habit of having family meetings now.
The meetings won’t look the same as they do when kids are older, and that’s the way it should be. Younger children have shorter attention spans and, truth be told, by the time you’re done chasing them down and cleaning up after them, so do you.
But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t begin to make the family meeting a part of your DNA. In fact, it is the ideal time to do so.
3 Keys for Family Meetings with Younger Children
I wish I had put the pieces together earlier when my children were younger. With as much success as we’ve had with family meetings over the last few years, I can see the value of getting started when the kids are younger. If we had begun earlier, we could have eliminated any barriers to buy-in and invested in building our family brand equity more intentionally from the outset.
Here are 3 keys to keep in mind when starting family meetings with younger kids:
- Keep them short. Let’s face it: some of us business leaders like to hear ourselves talk. But kids don’t care how much business success you’ve had. They’ll just get up and walk out — or fidget until you beg them to go. Keep the meeting short — 5 minutes and then a treat. Remember your first priority is training them to think of meetings as part of your unique family culture. They don’t have to function all that well for the moment.
- Find easy wins. Scheduling is good place to start. Let the kids know what’s coming in the next couple days – even if they don’t remember it all. You might even ask them what they want to do in the coming week, and then write it down. It will give them a sense of security about what lies ahead. Depending on the age of your children, let them lead a meeting on occasion or make short presentations about what interests them. My wife, Ann, involved the children early on by letting them choose a special dessert for the meeting and then help make it. By making the meetings useful and building their self-confidence, you encourage them to take a more active role in future meetings.
- Focus on fun. If it isn’t fun, it won’t work for kids. When your children are younger, it’s more important that meetings be fun than productive. So be sure to have a treat ready to celebrate. Find ways to include them in the fun by figuring out an opening ritual unique to your family, for example, to promote a sense of family unity. Let your imaginations explore ways to make family meetings enjoyable, and younger children will be asking for one every night.
It may be that the most valuable benefit of conducting family meetings when the children are younger is for you, as you get on the same page with your spouse during the planning before the meeting.
The key is this: Don’t expect too much of your children when they are younger. Think of them as interns who are just becoming familiar with how things are done in the business of your family. Your expectations can grow as they do.
Question:What ways have you found the make family meetings fun for younger children? What other tips would you suggest for younger families just getting started with regular meetings? You can share your thoughts by clicking here.