Family meetings have been a lifesaver in our home. We have solved challenges around homework, bedtime, mornings, dinners; you name it. After all these years, it’s not just the kids that are learning. One specific family meeting showed me just how powerful they can be.
At this particular meeting, the problem to solve was food waste at meals. You know, the vast amount food left on the plate because they wanted more and then never ate it. As two working parents, we struggled to get healthy meals made, and without the waste, we could have had leftovers another night instead of heaping it in the compost bin.
We brainstormed a list of solutions. The idea from our six year old was to serve the food family style so she could just take as much as she wanted. She shared that they had this problem at her school and this was the solution they found to work best. This was the solution both of our children wanted to try.
I thought to myself, “We already do that and it doesn’t seem to be working.” I held my tongue and instead asked a question: “How will we know if it is working?” The younger child said, “We can count it!” The older quickly added, “Let’s weigh it!”
My brain was still saying, “This will never work.” But, I knew we would evaluate our solution at the following meeting to see how it worked, so why not run with it. The parent educator in me thought, "this will be a great opportunity to explore what happens when a chosen solution doesn’t work." We agreed to weigh the leftover food on our plates after each meal we ate together for the next week.
Even with my professional background, I failed to correctly predict the outcome. We weighed our food waste after each meal and within three days, our waste was down to a few grams. Not once did I initiate the weighing. I offered no judgment about how they did it. The act of problem solving together and agreeing on a solution was enough to create change!
As time has passed since this family meeting, when food waste becomes an issue again, we go back to our plan for reducing it. We had such success the first time that they have confidence our plan will work and it usually only takes a few days to get us back on track.
Over many years of having family meetings, I have seen again and again the power of the process. Not every solution is a success, and sometimes we have to try again by picking a different solution from our initial list or brainstorming new ideas entirely. What we have learned is that coming together calmly, giving every family member a voice, and following through on solutions helps us find long-term solutions we all can live with.
You can learn how to have your own family meetings by following the steps outlined in Family Meetings: Your Most Powerful Parenting Tool.