A family council meeting can be a place to discuss the choices that are made, the consequences for poor decisions, family issues to be discussed, and love to be expressed. An adolescent will attempt to voice his opinion in either words or deeds. If a parent chooses to manipulate the adolescent, so that the adolescent cannot influence probable outcomes, then the adolescent will learn to manipulate the parent. A family meeting provides a way for parents and adolescents to discuss issues openly. The parents should preside over the family meeting. The parents need to present themselves as united on all issues discussed during a family meeting. For this reason, parents need to resolve disagreements that they have with each other's opinions before discussing problems with their children.
As the presenting issues are discussed, everyone in the family should feel that they can express themselves in a socially appropriate manner. This means that the parents should treat the children with the same respect that they would treat a friend, and that the children should do likewise with the parent.
Adolescents have the ability to understand the need for consequences. They even have the ability to state what their consequence should be if the wrong choice is made. This is the same ability that adults have. That is how laws are passed. Giving adolescents the right to influence their own rules prepares them for an adult life. Rules established in the family meeting need to have the full support of everyone. If someone disagrees with one of the rules then the family should continue to discuss the rule until everyone can agree.
Alex’s children had grown into teens and had become fairly obnoxious. They always fought and complained. They rarely contributed to household chores and they never kept their curfew. Alex felt like he was losing control. He wanted to get his family back on track, but did not know how. Alex reasoned that he simply needed to define the house rules more clearly. To accomplish this, Alex decided to hold a family meeting.
Alex called all of his family into the living room, including his wife. Alex sat at the head of the room while everyone else sat at the back. He explained the rules of the family. He explained the consequences to breaking the rules. He also told the teens what behaviors were no longer acceptable. Then he dismissed everyone.
Alex felt a little awkward in establishing the rules, like he did, but he reasoned that something had to be done. The adolescents felt like they were being talked down to. Their concerns were not addressed and they did not feel like their voices were heard. They did not agree on many of the rules. In a way, they resented the rules and their father for limiting what they saw as their freedom.
The teens were still hard to manage after the meeting. It felt like they were purposefully finding loopholes in Alex’s rules. Sometimes, Alex felt that they were intentionally sabotaging them. The girls constantly complained that one rule or another was not fair. Soon, there was so much complaining and sabotaging that Alex became complacent about giving consequences and soon stopped reinforcing the rules all together.
William saw himself as being equal to his wife. He considered his teenagers to be young adults. William valued their individual knowledge and perspective on life. He noticed that as the children entered their teenage years they had become obnoxious. They did not like to help out around the house and they were also beginning to ignore their curfew. William decided that he needed to have a family meeting in order to sort the problems out.
William first got together with his wife, one-on-one. They discussed the problems and possible solutions regarding the rules and relationships in the home. They decided on what behaviors and consequences they would allow and not allow. It took them a while to agree on several of the issues, but eventually they were able to come up with some compromises.
Then, William told the family that they would be meeting every week, at the same time and same day, for a family meeting. At the appointed time, the family reluctantly gathered together in the living room. They all sat together in a circle.
William started off the meeting with a prayer. Then he asked for everyone’s assistance in setting up ground rules for the family meeting. His family decided that everyone should have a turn to express problems that needed to be addressed. While one person was talking, no one could interrupt. Solutions to the problems could be presented after the person was finished talking. No finger pointing or disrespectful comments were to be tolerated. If anyone used blaming or disrespectful comments, they would be excused from the family meeting.
During the meeting, the teens brought up several issues. It turned out that they were aware of their own inability to follow curfew or complete chores. They also came up with viable consequences for not following the house rules. William and his wife had to help them adjust the consequences a little bit, because the children were actually too hard on themselves. Some of the children brought up issues related to arguments and fights. The girls had to agree on rules regarding when it was acceptable to borrow each other’s clothes. The boys had to agree on who could borrow the car, and when.
It was important to William that everyone agreed on the rules. He knew that if one person disagreed, and everyone else agreed, then that person would become bitter and rebel against the rule. At one time, during the meeting, the youngest child would not agree with curfew. He wanted the same curfew as everyone else. The older children became frustrated with him and simply wanted to override his opinion by voting on curfew time. William did not allow the youngest child to have his opinion vetoed through a vote. Instead, he encouraged the young man to express his view and talk things out until everyone was in agreement. This took more time, but William knew that this would pay off in the long run.
After the meeting, William noticed that the family seemed to be a little closer. Everyone seemed to understand each other a little better. When a rule was broken, William did not feel like the bad guy, doling out punishments. Instead he felt that he was simply following the plan that everyone had decided on. The children did not get upset when consequences were given either. They simply accepted the consequence that they had set up for themselves. He noticed that everyone did their best to see that the rules and consequences were followed.