Family meetings are an old tradition and a wonderful opportunity to gather everyone together for family updates.

Family meetings are an old tradition and a wonderful opportunity to gather everyone together for family updates. Years ago, many families regularly scheduled such meetings, but, throughout the years, we’ve all gotten too busy and those meetings seem to have gotten a bad rap. Children moan and groan when called to a family meeting, knowing that either someone is in trouble or that rules are changing.

Family meetings can have a positive purpose with a powerful outcome, however. These meetings can be used to increase family communication and family together time, enhance sibling relations and provide support or recognition of excellent behavior, celebrate a special achievement or explain a new house rule.

Start by renaming family meetings to “The Round Table” or “Table Talk,” which sounds more inviting and family friendly. Always make it fun by offering one new surprise fun food, such as popcorn, fruit salad on fancy toothpicks, pizza bagels, frozen grapes or even ice cream sundaes. Fun food is the incentive for your child to come to the table and willingly participate with interest.

Begin each meeting with a compliment for each participant, such as, “I loved watching you play so nicely with your brother this morning,” or, “I noticed that you picked up your crayons this afternoon!” Compliments are the best way to start a conversation. Keep your information simple and short. Say what you need to say in three sentences or less, and then ask your child to repeat the information. After your child clarifies what he heard, provide your next piece of information, in three sentences or less.

Provide each child with their own pad of paper and a pencil or crayon. Let them know the rules of The Round Table, which are that only one person speaks at a time. If someone has a comment or a question, they can write it down, or draw something to remind themselves, for when it is their turn. Assure them that they will each have a turn to talk, as you move “around the table,” one at a time. This teaches respect — as well as patience.

As children become more comfortable, they may want to call a Round Table to order if they have important family news, which would mean that you have been completely successful in providing a positive atmosphere to talk about family business. This type of family gathering increases sibling relations and nurtures family unity, as each person feels they can speak, question and have a voice.

Keep the meetings short, just enough time to finish the food. That probably means only one new house rule per Round Table. Too much information is often difficult to process, and sometimes challenging for parents to enforce. Rules that are put into place will need to be carefully explained, with clear consequences. Test for clarity and understanding by asking each child to review the new rule. As you finish, offer encouraging words, such as, “I just know you’re going to be able to remember to put your bike away from now on.”

Set your children up for success by starting your own family tradition with The Round Table, and see how eager your children are to participate and work together as a family.

Diana Boggia, M.Ed., is a parenting educator. Send your child-rearing questions to FamilyMatters@cantonrep.com or The Repository, c/o Family Matters, 500 Market Ave. S, Canton, OH 44702. Find additional parenting resources at her website, www.yourperfectchild.com.