Family Meetings

PDOver this past Christmas and New Year I spent some of my quiet time reading Positive Discipline by Jane Nelsen. I was looking for more ideas on how to positively interact with the small Oh Wailys. I found a few new ideas and met some old favourites.

While the book is a bit of a mish-mash of home and classroom ideas, there is plenty to take away from one environment that would work in the other.  The key idea for me, though, was the Family Meeting.

Not long after I finished the book we decided to give it a try and see how it would work, or not, for us.  At the first meeting we wrote the ‘minutes’ down on sheets of paper and it dragged on for what seemed like an interminably long time – especially for the kids.  There was a lot of explaining about what we were going to be doing at the meetings, and setting up expectations around listening and taking turns speaking.  Then, finally, actually trying to have a meeting.  It was all a bit dry, in hindsight.

We persisted and by the third meeting, which was just myself and the kids as Mr Oh Waily was away for work, I had taken up the further idea of having a permanent record of our meetings.  I had the perfect book for the task that had sat in my stationery drawer since my last pre-kid trip to Singapore way back in 2006, an A4 blank ring bound journal.  It had been waiting for a good use and now I had one for it.

We struggled through the next few meetings, trying to get a rhythm and working on the fidgety bugs that seem to infect the kids after a fairly short while.  Now we are two months on from those first tentative steps and I have to say that our meetings flow really well, for the most part, and the kids are both participative and able to concentrate for most of the meeting now.  We have dealt with a number of problems (one of the key uses of the family meeting) that have occurred during the preceding week, and everyone has been able to have a say in possible solutions.  The kids are learning to problem solve and to come to a consensus – as that is the only allowable outcome of the problem solving.  You just keep it on the agenda if consensus cannot be reached.

It seems to have reached a point where we rarely have actual problems to solve, so the focus of the latest few meetings has been firmly on the positive sections – compliments and planning fun activities for us all to do during the next week.  We have also dealt with our chores issues through the meeting, with a fair amount of success.  It is an ongoing work in progress, but at least it is not left to fester with anyone for long periods of time.

I think we will have reached another point in the process when we come home from our holiday in April.  It will be time to add in a new aspect or two of the meetings – expressing gratitude and maybe coming up with a family motto – just to spice it up a little and keep it interesting.  I can see that the meetings will become a more positive aspect in our lives as it becomes another family tradition, just like pancake day has.  It is something that binds us together and adds memories.

I definitely recommend getting a copy of Positive Discipline and checking out some of her ideas.  There are moments of repetition, and slightly banging on the same points, but overall it was a useful read and the Family Meeting idea made the reading all worthwhile.   Check out your local library for a copy first to make sure it gels with you and your family.

And as some wise friends said – keep it short, don’t make it a parent-lecture-opportunity, or a hidden parent-control-method and actually make sure the kids are involved and listened to.  Otherwise it will turn out to be the opposite of what I personally hoped for – a proactive, cohesion building tool for your family.

The trials and tribulations of teaching life skills

Herding cats anyone?

That’s probably a lot easier than teaching, encouraging, nagging and shouting about the life skills required to keep a house and it’s occupants in some form of cleanliness and healthiness.

It’s not like I haven’t been working on this since they were born or anything, after all.  In that seven years of effort with one child and five with the other, you would think that I may have made a slight dent.  But no, not so much as a temporary impression on their stubborn desire to ‘not do it for themselves’.

If you have one of those kids who loves things to be neat and tidy, there are many, many days that I wish I was you.
I love my kiddos, I do not love their stubborn refusal to help out, without much cajoling on my part.  It’s not like I haven’t made every effort to create a kid-friendly house.  Shelves they can reach, special cupboards to store their things in, clean up kits that are kept easily available should they be needed and even a mini-vacuum cleaner for a quick whip around when things get spilled.

They just don’t buy in to it.  The fact that they are now fairly functional members of our household seems to have washed right over them.  I feel like one of those rather large dung beetles pushing one of those even larger balls of poop up hill when it comes to getting the Oh Waily kids on board with the need for everyone to pitch in (at a suitable level, of course).

I am about to start another round of My Organized Chaos in the hope that I will be able to chip away at this ingrained reticence on the part of my little Oh Wailys.  As the sole* cleaner in the Oh Waily household to three or four mess-makers, this lack of help has worn thin.  I mean, really thin.  Rice paper is literally chunky compared to my trigger on the lack of help I receive in this area of our lives together.

I wonder, do you have a special trick up your sleeve that gets your kiddos to help out?  If you do, feel free to share it with me.  I’m open to all and any ideas, whether large or small.  Just don’t tell me I need to wait until they’re 35 for them to realise that household tasks are just a normal part of life!

* Mr Oh Waily is often away travelling or working long hours, so I can’t rely on his regular assistance.

Resolved… or not

Every year we hit this speed bump – New Year’s resolutions.

Aaaargh.  To resolve or not to resolve, it is always such a quandary.

Living in the southern hemisphere it’s so much of a ‘Spring-time’ feeling when 1 January rolls around, even when the weather doesn’t co-operate for a few days, that it is hard to resist the urge to embark on a jag of personal change.

So, as the Borg would have me believe, I have decided that resistance is futile.   Resolutions, of a sort, I am going to make.  Last year was pretty mediocre on many fronts in my world.  No need to rehash it in the sunlight of a new year, but suffice to say that the year dragged on longer and with less enjoyment than I would have liked.  No major dramas, but a certain degree of ennui settled in for the duration and then wouldn’t leave despite attempts to remove it.

For 2014 I am hoping to shut the door on that listlessness and dissatisfaction (far too many Esses in those words, seriously) by making some changes in approach, a bit of forward planning and some effort.

Here are my personal goals* in a nutshell.

  • migrate to a Primal lifestyle.
    • at least one long walk a week
    • change over to a whole-food style of eating & ditch grains
    • work on some basic core strength exercises**
    • get better sleep routines in place
  • read at least a book a week.
  • write a blog post at least once a week.
  • go to some sort of cultural event once a month.
  • continue with our fortnightly date night.
  • work on implementing plans for my other longer-term goals.

And there, I have succumbed to the Borg, er, the New Year’s resolution disease.  Let’s see how well I manage those.

How about you, did you resolve or not this year?


* as opposed to goals that relate to family and work – those, they shall remain privé.
** when I get a minute I’ll set up my fitness page and that will include some details of the goals.