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  • Writer's picturePaula Robertson

The power of regular family meetings

Embracing the concept of meeting regularly as a family

I must admit I initially thought that family meetings were really formal and in the past I never really embraced the concept. However, as my son has gotten older, I see the benefits of meeting regularly with him, and we’ve worked to incorporate it into our family life. Now Sunday evenings are our scheduled family meeting time, and he’s in charge of time keeping and sorting out the snacks!

Generally kids as young as four can participate and really enjoy the process. With teens, it may be helpful at first to introduce the concept with some humility, acknowledging perhaps that previous approaches may not have worked so well, and asking for their help in participating in the meeting in a mutually respectful way.

The Positive Discipline approach (developed by Jane Nelsen) advocates for the following steps:

  1. First set aside an agreed dedicated time each week, and as much as possible, try to have no distractions. Put aside the phones and let family friends know that you’ll call them back later. The meeting itself doesn’t have to take long; usually fifteen to twenty minutes will suffice.

  2. Put a meeting agenda where everyone can see it (at my home, it’s a sheet of paper on the fridge). Any family member can propose an item to add to the agenda. The adults may need to model how this is done for the kids, just in the beginning. For example, an agenda item might be: ‘Getting the family out of the house on time in the mornings.’

  3. At the designated meeting time, begin by first acknowledging and celebrating any achievements or breakthroughs that occurred for each family member during the past week. Include great learnings that may have come from mistakes. Another option is to have everyone share one thing they appreciate about each member of the family.

  4. Then work through each agenda item, allowing space for each family member to contribute. In larger families, setting limits for talk time, and passing around a ‘talking stick’ can be helpful. The talking stick reminds everyone that only one person can talk at a time, and that everyone will get their turn.

  5. Brainstorm solutions. Have one family member act as the scribe and write down all the proposed solutions. Remind the family that all ideas are welcomed and accepted. Encourage the children to go first and propose any solutions they can think of.

  6. Agree to work together to find solutions and make decisions that are respectful to everyone. If a consensus agreement couldn’t be reached in the meeting, it should be put forward to the next one to allow for new ideas to be generated.

  7. As a family, assess the proposed solutions – using the ‘3 R’s and an H’ approach: finding solutions that are Related, Reasonable, Respectful and Helpful. At this stage, any proposed solutions that do not meet these criteria may need to be eliminated by consensus agreement.

  8. Using this approach, try to narrow down the proposed solutions as much as you can, and write these down. As a family, you may decide to try out one or more of the agreed solutions, then assess how well they worked at the next week’s meeting. (If it’s then decided the solution(s) didn’t work, put the problem back on the agenda for more discussion next week).

  9. Plan a family fun activity during the week ahead.

  10. End the meeting by doing something fun together as a family, like playing a board game or watching a family movie together. Family members take turns to choose the activity to close out the meeting. (At our last family meeting, I chose Jenga!)

Remember, progress over perfection. It’s okay if the meeting isn’t run perfectly, and as parents, we can learn from our mistakes.

The benefits of meeting in this way have been shown to include improved closeness and more effective communication skills among family members, if we’re willing to approach the process with an open mind and a willingness to listen.

So, give it a try! I’m definitely still learning, but enjoying the process along the way.

Be well,


Dr Paula Robertson is a busy mom and a paediatrician with over twenty years' experience working with young people and their families. You can find out more at


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