Productive Family Meetings: 3 Essential Steps

What You Need to Know to Make Them Work for You

Imagine a business team that never met to discuss how the business was doing. What if their only planning was done on the fly while passing in the halls as they hurried to return calls? How effective and successful do you think that business would be?

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We’ve all experienced too many purposeless meetings, but without regular meetings of some sort, your business—and your family—will quickly descend into chaos.

For the Timm Family, our family meetings have become the hub at the center of all we do. In fact, on the rare occasion that we miss a meeting, we start feeling the chaos immediately.

Family meetings are now the glue that holds our family business together. Our entire family—all eight of us—look forward to our weekly gatherings. The meetings allow us to coordinate, communicate, and deepen our relational bonds. [Discover more of the benefits of having regular family meetings in my eBook Win at Work like You Win at Home. Click here to claim a free copy.]

But as critical and foundational as family meetings are to our success today, they were probably the most difficult piece for us to start. Initially, our kids were not on board at all. It took some time for us to overcome that resistance and learn how to conduct family meetings that everyone wanted to attend.

If you are thinking about starting family meetings as a proven practice to empower your family to thrive, you’ll want to know the three essential steps we discovered for overcoming resistance to family meetings.

3 Essential Steps for Productive Family Meetings

1. Be Consistent.

When we first started to hold family meetings, we were not consistent. For our kids, that meant they were often caught off-guard and arrived mentally unprepared to participate. We often didn’t give them much notice; we’d just say, “Oh, we have some time, let’s do a family meeting.” But they would have other things that they were thinking about doing. It made it very difficult to pull the family together in the right frame of mind.

Because we were not predictable, we often set ourselves up for conflict. Almost without fail, when we announced a family meeting, one of our children would say, “I have a big exam tomorrow. I need to study.” Then we were in a no-win situation of our own making, being forced to choose between having them study or go to the family meeting.

One of the most important steps we took to solve this problem was to make our family meeting consistent—same day, same time, every week. When our children knew they could plan around it, we could expect them to do so. They no longer had an excuse for skipping the meeting, and we no longer had to make the tough call between two important priorities.

2. Have Fun.

I’ll admit it—our first meetings were boring. They just weren’t enjoyable at all. None of us want to go to lifeless meetings at our business that feel like drudgery. We learned quickly that with kids we needed some entertainment value so that they saw the experience as a positive one.

We soon figured out that what works in business meetings also works at home—food. That’s right, we resorted to bribing them with special treats. For example, we generally don’t keep ice cream handy at home, but we bought some to enjoy at the family meeting. News of the ice cream’s arrival created a buzz about the meeting, and the kids all showed up promptly, ready for a fun time.

When the weather is cooperative, we love to cook s’mores around the fire. So we started doing some outside family meetings and used the s’mores as our special treat, setting up a s’more-gasboard from which the kids could create their own sweet treats. We all began to associate family meetings with treats we don’t normally get.

But more than having cool food, we focused primarily on having fun. We reflected on funny things that happened throughout the week and laughed about ourselves. By focusing on fun, our family cleared the way for more productive conversations to take place.

3. Make a Plan

One reason we struggled mightily at the outset was that we simply had no idea what we were doing. The early family meetings didn’t have a clear agenda, so we didn’t really know what we were going to talk about.

Our kids could tell we were not organized; therefore, they didn’t have a lot of respect for what we were trying to do. The more disciplined and intentional that my wife, Ann, and I got about preparing for the meeting, the more the kids engaged. It was as if they thought, Hey, they’re on this. They’ve talked about this in advance. They’ve got an agenda, and they’re following it.

Even if your plan isn’t that complex, have one, execute it, and be done. Don’t think that a long meeting is necessarily a better one.

Our family meetings are now very consistent. We have a ton of fun and always know exactly what we want to accomplish.

Question:Which of these steps did you find most helpful for conducting your own productive family meetings? You can share your thoughts by clicking here.

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  • Ryan Schmidt

    Can you give an example of what your meeting agenda looks like? I mean just general discussion topics. I understand needing to have a family meeting when a change is taking place or you want to implement a rule change but just not sure about weekly topics. Not at all opposed to the idea though. Thank you.

    • http://marktimm.com Mark Timm

      Ryan, great question. We did struggle in the beginning with agenda topics but over time we settled into some easy regular discussion topics. For starters, we always discuss “celebration moments” from the prior week and “what’s happening” in the week to come. As for the rest of the agenda items they usually form easily over the course of a given week as my wife and I share items that need to be discussed. They range from school announcements, discipline needed, new expectations to even front page local or world news. We also like to have at least one child presenting or sharing something each meeting – with 6 kids it spreads it around nicely but the same could happen in a smaller family. This tactic keeps them engaged with the meeting and teaches them how to share in a group – a skill they will need later in life. I hope this helps and feel free to ask more and dig deeper if needed. Mark

  • Mikki Gaines

    I love the meeting idea. I tried it with my boyfriends kids and mine. When we have the kids together I’d settle us all down and proceed with the meeting once a month to go over rules, discipline, behavior contracts, having them share one at a time what their highlights of the month/week whatever they wanted to discuss or share that was positive. Then I asked them to share one at a time things they’d like to change or work on. That seemed to be a mistake for one of the children. This particular child would use this to their benefit by getting attention or by saying hurtful things toward me. I am at a loss of what to do now. One young adult enjoyed the meetings. It was their time to get things off their chest about the others and things to work on. I tried this in an effort to calm the chaos and in an effort to help everyone get along. I don’t think some of them are ready for this or is it I have conducted it wrong? I always made a treat for the meeting hoping for a positive outcome. Do you have any suggestions? At this point I have ended the meetings altogether (probably what one child wanted) and decided to follow a behavioral contract. Please help…