By Nohad Mouawad
It’s every parent’s worst kept secret: it’s almost impossible to get your kids to listen to you. You thought that once they get a bit bigger, and they get over the tantrum stage, that you could just sit down and talk to them reasonably. Instead, you are faced with the same constant “No, I don’t want to!” or huffy pre-teens stomping to their rooms and slamming doors in your face. Only yesterday, my own five year-old son said that I’m the “worst mom in the whole world,” because I picked out the wrong color of t-shirt for him to wear to his playdate. Does this mean our kids are spoiled? Or is there a better way to communicate with them, and have them voice their concerns in a way that brings our families together?
UAE-based Parenting Expert and Coach Natasha Ramchandani has the solution: family meetings. It might sound corporate at first. You picture your family sitting in the board room looking at slides and pie charts while discussing earnings, but the family meeting, as Natasha describes it, is actually a very warm and open activity that can bring our families closer.
Natasha suggests having a weekly time where the whole family gets together, parents and kids to communicate in a respectful way and solve problems together. The family meeting can actually be a time for children to talk about what they want, what’s bothering them, and even to listen to their parents and siblings and learn to understand other points of view.
So how does a family meeting work and how do you set it up? Natasha suggests agreeing on a time to meet and breaking down the meeting into Seven Steps:
- Make an Introduction: Tell the kids why you’re meeting, namely to talk about what’s important to each of them and to you, and mention that each kid will get their turn to talk. Highlight that you’re meeting to talk and to solve any problems in the family.
- Give Each Other Compliments: Next, tell the kids that you’ll start by each sharing one nice thing about each other, going around the circle of family members. Each child and parent can have a turn to share their gratitude or appreciation, and this can set a positive tone for the meeting.
- Set an Agenda: Once the mood is set, it’s time to set an agenda. The agenda for the meeting should be written somewhere everyone can see like on This can be a whiteboard on the fridge or a notebook on the coffee table. It’s a place where family members can write down what they want to talk about or any issues they’re having that they want to be heard. For example, a parent could write, “I want to talk about shoes not being kept in the right place.” Or a kid could write, “I want to talk about how much screentime I get a week.” If you have a younger child in the family, they can talk and you can write down their ideas for them.
- Use a Talking Stick: A talking stick is an object or toy that is passed around the family circle. When someone has the talking stick, it’s their turn to speak. Only the person with the talking stick gets to speak, and everyone will get a turn. Natasha says that in her family she uses the stuffed toy ‘Fixie’, the phoenix to make family meetings easier.
- Brainstorm for Solutions: Once each person has had their turn to talk, it’s time to think of possible solutions to the problems that were brought up. Everyone in the family thinks of solutions for the problem. Tell your kids that: “I want you to know that all ideas are welcome; nothing is silly or unacceptable.” This will really encourage them to speak up and make them feel like they came up with the answers themselves, rather than the rules being imposed on them by mom and dad.
- Use the 3 R’s and an H to assess proposed solutions: Introduce kids to the 3Rs and an H, so that they understand what type of solutions you’re looking for as a family. In other words, solutions need to be (1) related, (2) reasonable, (3) respectful, and (4) helpful. Write each person’s proposed ideas on your family white board or notebook and eliminate the ones that don’t cut it. Highlight or underline the solutions that do work for a shortlist.
- Choose the Solutions: Once you have your family shortlist, it’s time to choose a solution (one or more) to the problem you sat down to discuss. You can decide to meet in a week and talk about whether the solution worked or not and how everyone feels about it.
Meeting on purpose with an agenda can help each family member talk about complicated topics without being judged. It can also help siblings feel more connected and realize that each person’s actions affect the whole household.
When family meetings are done correctly, they positively impact a child’s self-esteem. Instead of letting anger take over when your child doesn’t listen, family meetings can help you learn how to handle situations in a healthy way, while reinforcing your family values. Regular family meetings encourage everyone to work together and make it easier for kids to get along and follow the rules.
These Seven Steps might seem straightforward, but it can be tricky to get started with family members and to implement them effectively. That’s where coaching with Natasha can really come in handy. Natasha offers the type of training parents need in helping communicate with kids and making family life smoother. Book your free consultation with Parenting Coach Natasha Ramchandani through the QiDZ app and begin a smoother parenting journey.