Internationally acclaimed parenting expert, Vicki Hoefle introduces an effective approach to staying connected with your kids while giving them the space to live and learn, Family Meetings.
These weekly meetings with your family will address many of the daily challenges you face while raising kids, such as sibling rivalry, defiant and sassy behavior, chores, time management, navigating screen time, homework, bedtimes, mealtimes and more.
In this Family Meeting course you will learn about all of the aspects of this grounding family ritual, and be able to set the stage for your family's success.
The course is divided into a series of three to four-minute videos for each section of the family meeting. You will learn about Appreciations, Contributions, Problem Solving and Allowance.
By setting aside time each week to implement Family Meeting into your routine, you will experience long-lasting change in your family and help your children develop character traits that will serve them well as they navigate adolescence and young adulthood.
About Vicki Hoefle
Parent Educator & Coach, National Speaker and Author, Vicki Hoefle combines expertise in Adlerian Psychology with a suite of actionable, time tested tools. Her informative and highly engaging presentation style keeps her in demand as a speaker, facilitator and educator. She is the author of Duct Tape Parenting, The Straight Talk on Parenting and founder of 3RParenting.
A personal word from Vicki
Parents feel isolated and afraid to admit that they need help. We start making assumptions about what is happening in other people’s houses. And you know what —we tend to think that everyone else is doing a great job and we are doing an awful job. We begin to put our energy into “getting” our children to look and behave in certain ways, because we have the idea that other people are watching and judging us.
Instead of parenting from our best, we start parenting from our fear. We quickly begin to feel the downward spiral of these assumptions. Parenting is tough enough — we don’t need to make it worse by thinking that the world is judging us based on the actions of our four- year-old.
Teaching parent education is also my passion. I can’t think of anything I would rather do. I have watched as family after family experiences significant and lasting change, as a result of this program. As the mother of five teenagers who has been in the trenches, I can say with certainty that my programs deliver what parents are looking for.
Most parents, if asked, would say they want kids who are kind, empathetic, cooperative, respectful, are strong problem solvers, and who know how to handle money. Unfortunately, most of those same parents would also say they have no idea how to make that wish list materialize! Family Meetings teach all of these valuable life skills, but unfortunately, in our society “family meetings” have a bad rap. Say the words “Family Meeting” and most kids run for cover. In Vicki’s rendition, however, it all changes for the better- kids not only show up, they participate willingly.
Family Meetings are a valuable resource for any family. They help create healthy habits in many key-parenting areas, including: allowance, chores, communication, appreciation and problem solving. Parents who implement Family Meetings discover clear and welcomed progress, positive change and a willingness from every member of the family to work together to attain peace and harmony. Children begin to feel empowered and adults gain confidence that they are indeed parenting on the right track.
How are these Family Meetings different?
Family Meeting is a place where all of our families are defined. It is a place for us to practice being our best as parents and allowing our children to become their best. It provides us with a weekly chance to practice all of the other strategies that support healthy family dynamics.
Results include: kids who show appreciation for each other, a system that supports the equitable distribution of work, problem solving skills to end the tattling, telling and blaming and a system to help kids learn about the value of money. All that in 15 - 20 minutes, once a week!
There are 5 Key Components to setting up a successful Family Meeting.
Follow these and you are sure to create a stress free meeting for you and the kids.
1.Create Continuity and Consistency by holding the meeting on the Same Day, at the Same Time in the Same Place.
2. The Meetings lasts between 15 and 20 minutes but under no circumstances do you extend beyond the 20 minute mark.
3. Meet at the table. And leave all distractions in the other room – This includes toys, food, or anything else that indicates the meeting is not as important it is.
4. Everyone has a job; Chairperson, Time-Keeper, Secretary, Tangent Master, Meeting opener, Treat Getter for the end. Each week the jobs are rotated and each job comes with a prop; a gavel, an egg-timer or other clock and a book to record the solutions you come up with.
5. Send out an invitation. No one is REQUIRED to attend, but everyone is invited.
Setting up the Family Meeting is as important as any other aspect of the meeting. I have learned the hard way, that without a structure, the Meeting can deteriorate quickly and dramatically. So take some time to set things up properly at the beginning and you will save yourself time and aggravation later.
Everyone is invited to participate in the meeting, but nobody is required to come. This applies to everyone, kids as well as adults. The invitation is always there and you always have the right to decline, but the decisions that are made at the Family Meeting are final and apply to all members of the family whether you attend the meeting or not. This is one of the ways children begin to understand that they have a voice, that they count, and that their vote may be the swing vote in planning a fun event.
I want to encourage parents to invite their children from the very earliest of ages, and understand that two and three-year-olds have a difficult time staying put for fifteen-minutes. It's fine to let them leave the meeting once and to come back and re-join the family, but after that, it is important that parents send the message to the kids that the meeting is more important than any one family member. If little ones like to come and go, and color and play, we suggest that sometimes the family plan an alternative place to conduct the meeting. It sends a very strong non-verbal message that nothing is going to disrupt the meeting, because the meeting is what helps to define the family.
Here is how you introduce Family Meetings so that your kids will look forward to attending week after week after week.
1. Go Slow & Keep your Expectations Realistic. It can be tempting to start with all of the Family Meeting segments at once. This is a new concept for many of you and takes time (like any new skill) to develop. Start with Appreciations and Allowance. Add the next segments when you have these others mastered.
2. Practice Communicating. Give everyone a chance to embrace this new form of communication. This is going to bring out preferences and opinions that would otherwise stay underground and being diplomatic and articulate takes practice.
3. Focus on Progress & Improvement. Family Meeting is an opportunity to involve your children and give them a voice. This system can be messy at times, but over the course of several weeks and months the momentum will start carrying the meeting.
4. Set a Foundation. How you respond to your children at Family Meeting will set the tone for this new relationship you are creating. Once you find your rhythm, the family meeting will begin to take on its own feel and energy. Family Meeting will begin to help define the family itself.
5. Use a Family Meeting Box & Journal. Keep all of your props in a Family Meeting Box. Keeping everything together makes it simple to start the meeting each week. This also offers something for children to decorate as a way to develop some ownership in the process. Use a journal for appreciations and solutions. This is a record of what you have accomplished each week (and lots of fun to read when your kids are older.)
6. Follow through with the scheduled meeting each week. Life is busy and adding one more thing to your weekly agenda can seem impossible. Invest 15 – 20 minutes in Family Meeting each week and save time. You will be doing less around the house which includes moderating sibling squabbles.
7. Follow the system. Family Meetings can be difficult to implement as they are comprised of several segments and if parents leave out some of the foundational pieces, these meetings can very quickly deteriorate. When this happens, everyone gets discouraged and it can be difficult to get excited about the next week.
Appreciations are an opportunity for us to acknowledge, appreciate and express our gratitude for the people that we live with every day for the ways that they contribute to our lives in positive ways. The Family Meeting begins with Appreciations because it influences the mood of the entire family, and consequently the tone of the meeting.
This is the parents’ opportunity to focus their attention on helping their children develop traits like kindness, inclusion, compassion, understanding, respect, acceptance and a chance to feel good about their own strengths.
Many of the daily challenges families face can be alleviated, simply by introducing children to the concept of appreciations. Imagine hearing something nice from each one of your family members every week. There is nothing more powerful for changing our moods, thoughts, and actions than hearing what others appreciate about us and how that positively impacts the family.
1. Sibling Rivalry. When children start to hear how much they are appreciated by their family on a regular basis, it gets more and more difficult to be mean and hurtful to them.
2. Rude & Disrespectful Behavior. When we start taking care of each other in this deep and meaningful way, it is easier for all family members to show each other the dignity and respect we all deserve.
3. Being Critical of Others. When we teach children the skill of noticing the strengths and unique abilities in others and offer them the time to develop the confidence to articulate what they notice, the children’s view of everyone is influenced.
4. Putting Self Down. When the focus is on the children’s strengths, abilities and talents, children feel better about who they are in the world and the difference they make in the life of others.
Besides addressing every day challenges, weekly Appreciations provide children an opportunity to learn valuable life lessons and develop character traits and qualities that will support them to thrive as young adults and live happy, healthy lives.
Expressing gratitude for each other week after week, month after month, year after year in a society where the focus is on finding problems and pointing out faults, teaches our children how to look for the best in family members, their friends and their community.
It seems simple enough to sit around a table and say nice things about your family members. However, this can be more difficult than it seems, especially if you are not in the habit. Follow these simple steps and you will be on your way to setting up a successful Appreciations portion of your Family Meeting.
Having experienced many of my own family meetings and been privy to hundreds of others, I know first-hand what can trip parents up and what tips will help them set course for a smooth and grateful ride. Be prepared for appreciations to be difficult.
This portion of the Family Meeting is a chance for our children to learn about money. This is the time for kids to develop their own relationship with money outside of their parents influence and for us, as parents, to support the growing independence of our children. We give children money for three reasons, to teach them how to save it, spend it and give it away.
Many of the everyday challenges parents face with their kids are created because we are holding all the cards and the power of the money is in our pockets. Start giving your kids allowance as soon as you are certain they will not put it in their mouths. Imagine how money savvy your five-year-old will be after a few years of practice.
1. Fighting at the store. When kids are given a weekly allowance and encouraged to bring the money with them whenever they leave the house the pleading and begging for items in the store, ends.
2. Hairy eyeballs melting your resolve. Now that you give your child money each week, and temper-tantrums have ended, there will be no more dirty looks from your companions in the shopping line.
3. Demanding Kids eating Dinner out. Kids who understand the power of money and recognize that you are not going to indulge their picky palate, develop a more thoughtful attitude towards food and may even offer to treat for take-out.
4. Expensive Gifts. Once kids start to receive allowance and are introduced to the notion that birthday gifts are their responsibility, they become much more thoughtful about what they will and will not buy.
5. Children Keeping Track of Gear. Once children understand the power of money and are used to managing it, they are much more likely to keep track of things, especially when they realize they will be replacing them using their own allowance.
When you give your children allowance at the Family Meeting and then stick to the guidelines, your children will learn valuable life lessons and these will pay dividends for years to come.
1. Gratitude When your children are exposed to the power of money, how difficult it is to come by, the discipline it takes to save, and the thought it takes to decide on a charity to donate it to, they embody those who are grateful to their core.
2. Self-Discipline The experience of spending money on something only to see it break or to now not have enough to buy something you were saving for is a very valuable teacher. Your children will apply this self-discipline to other areas of their lives.
3. Savvy Consumerism This comes with practice and experience. Five-year-olds may not be very savvy, but by the time they reach ten years of age, they will have developed a new skill.
The How To’s of Allowance are as simple as you sliding the money from your side of the table over to the child’s side of the table, lifting your hand and relinquishing any claims you might have had on it.
Remember this is all about allowing your children to develop their own relationship with money through trial and error. Here are some tips and common mistakes to avoid that will make the process smoother for everyone.
As parents we can either be the maid or be emotionally available to our children, but we can’t do both.
Contributions are about the equitable distribution of household chores among all family members using a simple system that will support all members of the family, no matter the age or skill level. When work is distributed equally, it ensures that families have more time together doing the things they enjoy, reduces stress, anxiety and fights. This in turn, leads to an atmosphere of cooperation, mutual respect and joy.
Introducing Kids to the Family Meeting
How you introduce kids to the Contribution portion of the Family Meeting is important if you want kids to feel engaged and empowered by the process.
Be honest, be patient, and be sure to include all the ways this will benefit your children and make their lives easier, simpler and more fun.
The Contributions portion of the Family Meeting is a place for us to start to make agreements about daily chores, so that parents can stop with all the nagging, reminding, lecturing, and bribing, which often escalates into fighting. Instead, you are alleviating tension with just a little bit of training and a respectful conversation between parents and kids. In addition from a very young age, our children are beginning to understand that work is worth, and this is a value that they will carry out into the world with them from 18 to 80. When kids feel valuable and parents feel rested many of the everyday challenges we face with our kids are eliminated.
1. More Maid than Mom or Dad When children begin to contribute to the running of the home and take more responsibility for their own life, parents are better able to identify when the child may be struggling and need emotional support.
2. Fracture in the Relationship When the nagging, reminding, lecturing, threatening, bribing and doing for disappears, the relationship between the parents and the children stays loving, healthy and respectful.
3. Demanding, Entitled and Ungrateful Kids When children become more involved in running the home, feelings of entitlement disappear and as they become more independent, their attitude becomes more cooperative and engaging.
Besides addressing every day challenges, daily Contributions provide children an opportunity to learn valuable life lessons and over time develop character traits and qualities that will support them to thrive as young adults and live happy, healthy lives.
1. Developing Self-Confidence By offering children an opportunity to practice taking care of themselves and making a positive contribution to the family they develop a strong sense of self.
2. Agreements, Responsibility & Accountability When children are part of the decision making process, they are more likely to follow through and understand their role in breaking the agreement.
3. Mastery Takes Practice When children accept that learning any new skill takes time, patience and practice they are more willing to say yes to invitations to try new things. Over the years, this helps children build self-confidence, tenacity, a can-do attitude, and an excitement for life.
4. Work is Worth Work ethic is developed when children are invited to help out in the home and experience first-hand the impact they have on the success of the family.
5. Organizational & Time Management Skills Children learn what it takes to accomplish daily tasks in an organized way. With enough practice, children leave our homes and enter the adult world feeling confident that they have the skills to create a life of meaning and purpose.
6. Awareness When children are responsible for their gear, whether it be a wallet, backpack, lunch, homework sports equipment or suitable clothing for a week at the beach, these kids become aware of the world outside themselves.
Many parents can feel a bit confused about where to start when they first introduce Contributions into the Family Meeting. I do not suggest parents watch this video and then declare there is a new sheriff in town and the kids are now responsible for taking care of themselves, their stuff and the house.
Here are a few simple steps to outline the process for you.
Kids can grumble, push-back or resist the idea of helping out around the house. Remember for years you have been sending them the message that you do it better or they are not capable. Here are a few of my top tips for a successful transition from doing it all to inviting and training the children to participate.
The problem solving portion of the Family Meeting might just be the most important section of all. This provides our children with a chance to break the habit of looking for problems, blaming other people for them and then relinquishing responsibility for solving them by bringing an adult into the conversation. When children understand that Mom and Dad are no longer willing to play the role of head “problem-solver”, they begin to take on the responsibility of solving their own problems using a system that meets the needs of everyone involved.
Introducing Kids to Problem Solving
Explain to your kids that you have a new system for solving problems that will involve everyone in the family and will give your kids a voice in the decisions and family policy.Let them know this includes rules about bedtimes, screen time and family activities, any place you are seeing some push back from the kids? Let them know this is a chance for them to use their voices.
The benefits of implementing the Problem Solving segment of Family Meetings will be evident over both the long and short term. Many of the everyday challenges parents face with their kids are alleviated when children are given the skills to practice and the opportunity to develop the confidence required to solve the myriad of problems that present themselves over the course of the day. This problem solving portion of the Family Meeting offers families so much more than just solving a problem once-and-for-all.
Besides addressing every day challenges, developing problem solving skills provides children an opportunity to learn valuable life lessons. Think in terms of when your children leave your home at 18, you want them to throw open the doors and believe that no matter what happens to them, they are prepared to deal with it and to solve these problems in a very satisfying, fulfilling, rewarding and effective way.
1. Patience Kids learn to wait and learn that everything isn’t an emergency. This patience translates into other areas of their lives.
2. Solution Oriented Kids learn to articulate the problem in one sentence and become far more interested in the solution. This leaves time for more interesting conversation.
3. Taking Responsibility When the habit of blaming is replaced with taking responsibility for choices and actions, children develop grit, integrity and moral fortitude.
Pre meeting set up
1. Create a “No Name No Blame” Problem Board. This problem board is where the kids write down the problems that come up during the day. The child starts every problem with “I have a problem when…” There is no name used and no blame put on anyone else.
2. When your children come to you with a problem, you say, “that sounds like a problem for you, please go write it on the Problem Board.”
3. You may not put your problem on the board.
4. You can make the problem your children’s problem, by getting creative.
5. Explain to the kids that you are only going to solve one problem at each meeting.
6. The agreed upon solution will be recorded in the Family Meeting book and 7. There will be a check in and opportunity to tweak the solution at the meeting the following week. The family agrees to try it for seven days.
During the meeting:
1. Take time to win everyone over and make the problem a family problem.
2. Write down all the solutions that they kids generate.
3. Cross off solutions that don’t solve the problem or the solutions that make
4. Vote using fist or five.
5. Create an environment for the dissenting child to become a collaborator.
6. Offer the dissenting child a chance to reconsider.
7. Ask the dissenter how he would improve the solution.
If children are unfamiliar with this process of problem solving, they can be a bit resistant to the process and try to trick you into thinking this strategy will not work. This is not a malicious action, it is just one of habit and routine. Kids are familiar with you working hard to solve their problems. By following these tips, avoiding some common mistakes, and a little time and practice, you will be amazed by the solutions your children can employ.
1. Read the problem and do not discuss it further. Remember you are teaching children to identify a problem in one sentence.
2. Cross off the problems that are no longer problems, this helps kids recognize they are actually solving many problems on their own, already.
3. Don’t give the best solution. You want kids to break the habit of looking to you for solutions. Kids need practice and ownership. This is the time to offer it to them.
4. Try out your children’s solution. Even if you know it won’t work. Give it a try and let them discover the necessary adjustments to make, so the solution will work.
5. End the meeting whether you have solved the problem or not. This will help them to work efficiently and not digress over discussing the problem and throwing the meeting off track.
6. Use the fist or five to build consensus. This is not majority rules. Everyone contributes to the success.
7. Check in with the dissenter and ask what he can do to make the problem work.
Usually your biggest problem makers are you best problem solvers if they are given a chance to redefine their position in the family.
Vicki Hoefle is a parent; mom to six adult children. Her first concern is her family, her second is the well-being of yours. Vicki is like your smartest, tell-it-like-it-is neighbor, encouraging you to trust your instincts. Vicki knows being a parent is not easy even on a good day. On a bad day parenting can be the ultimate challenge to mind, body, and spirit. Her mission is to empower and encourage parents so they can parent with confidence and enthusiasm.
Vicki’s parenting philosophy and approach to raising “thinking” children, does not include “getting children” to comply or using so-called “discipline” strategies (which include nagging, reminding, lecturing, bribing, counting, and time-outing) for dealing with pesky behaviors. Grounded in Adlerian theory, her entire approach focuses on these simple, yet powerful principles:
Her strategies work for every family, whether you have young children and are just starting the parenting journey, beginning to experience the first challenges of raising children in the 21st century or you’re facing crisis, stress, or the effects of divorce. Vicki inspires REAL families and shows them how to spend their time and energy investing in the relationship, to get on track with what is important and experience the joy of living in a healthy, loving family.