So often, when I ask parents what they struggle with most when it comes to mindful parenting, they tell me it’s controlling their own emotions. They say things like:
And the other thing they tell me (often in the same breath) is how stressed they are right now:
And so I’m not at all surprised that they can’t control their reactions under those circumstances. Of course they can’t! If this is you too, listen up, mama! You don’t need to know how to control your emotions. Your problem is not that you cannot control your emotions and reactions in those difficult moments. The problem is that you expect yourself to be able to! Because you are focusing on the symptom instead of the cause.
What you’re talking about, when you say “I can’t control myself” is exercising self control. But when you focus on self control in those difficult moments, you set yourself up to fail. What you need to be focusing on instead, is self regulation. And they’re not the same thing!
When it comes to raising our families, I think it’s fair to say that most of of us are aiming to create a positive family culture where everyone feels heard, respected and valued for their unique skills and strengths. We hope that this positive culture will result in respectful, confident children. Children who know their own worth and feel both connected to the world around them and secure about their place within it. But of course, as we’ve discussed before, emotionally healthy families don’t just happen. They require intentionality. They require us to pave a clear path for our children and instil a strong set of values that guides their actions and decisions.
This is where the family meeting shines. However, a lot of parents tell me they’ve tried family meetings before and they did NOT go well. The most common complaint I hear is that kids don’t like them. They get bored. Don’t take it seriously. Leave before it’s over. There is arguing. Complaining. Eye rolling. Storming off. And in some cases, it descends into an all in brawl. So in complete and utter frustration, parents give up and cancel the whole thing.
But it doesn’t have to be that way! You can make family meetings work well for your family. Let’s talk about how to hold a family meeting that actually works! But first, why are family meetings important?
The family meeting is an opportunity to address the everyday difficulties that arise within a family while also reinforcing your family values and living out your family mission statement. They are great opportunities for learning and growth for both adults and children. And they can proivide a safe space for children to make mistakes, practice skills, and explore their own ideas and beliefs.
And there are so many important skills children get the chance to learn and practice during a family meeting: listening to others, communicating respectfully, managing differences and resolving conflicts, problem solving and even empathy. They are a fantastic opportunity to build resilience and strengthen connections and they can significantly reduce conflict within a family when they occur regularly.
They can also be tricky. Because while we have the best of intentions when it comes to family meetings, they can quickly become a source of frustration and further fuel conflict instead of reducing it. In fact, like many of the parents I speak to, maybe you’ve tried family meetings before but gave up on them because they seemed to make things worse. I hear you. It has taken many years for my family to get this right. But now that we’ve had lots of practice, our family meetings run like a (mostly!) well oiled machine.
So how do you hold a family meeting that actually works? Read on to get my top tips.
Shortened cold, gray and damp
days are hardly elements that motivate us to get outside, right? When I
talk with teens in my office about spending time in nature,
particularly in the winter months, the conversation quickly shifts to
avoiding the cold and waiting until Spring when things warm up and
everything starts to brighten and bloom again.
I get it. We’re more inclined to associate winter as a time for solitude and it's important to make time for rest, but the reality is when we allow the conditions of each season to control our relationship with the natural world, our preferences may result in waiting out the “uncomfortable” for the more “comfortable” and before we know it, we can end up spending days, even months stuck inside.