After I had kids, I quickly realized that I needed to give myself much more time to leave home and get to my destination on time. My kids are no longer babies and toddlers who require last-minute changing and feeding, but we still struggle with rushing out the door.
Most parents of school-aged kids would agree that a key stress point is getting to school. Despite regularly giving my children the “we’re leaving in 10 minutes — 5 minutes — 2 minutes” countdown, more often than not shoes still need to get on feet, a child needs to go back inside for a forgotten backpack, or I myself have forgotten my phone, the house alarm or my sanity.
Fortunately, I don’t have to go to an office, so I’m not required to wear a suit and look pulled together when I walk about the door. Mornings often find me headed to school drop-off with wet hair and far more casual, work-from-home clothes.
A Family Meeting Can Help You and Your Kids Work on Long-Term Goals
Certified parenting coach Meghan Leahy suggests a way to break this “running late” cycle in a recent parenting Q&A for the Washington Post. Leahy explains that rewards don’t always work (although my youngest benefits from this system, so I wouldn’t recommend writing it off altogether!). She says incentives can even make things worse because kids decide they want to be “good” only if there’s a reward involved — and that those rewards lose their effectiveness the more complex a chore is.
Instead, she says you should rearrange your thinking. Don’t ask: “How do I get my kids out the door more quickly and more easily?” Ask how you can get your kids to care about the task in question.
According to the parenting coach, your best bet is to take a big first step that’s not something you do in the moment, while you’re trying to leave the house: Establish regular family meetings to work on this in the long-term.
A family meeting is what she calls a “tool of connection.” Leahy says these get-togethers look different in every family, but all have a goal of making sure everyone pitches in to meet cooperative goals. No yelling or shaming is allowed — just a sense of togetherness.
Family Meetings May Help Reduce Parental Stress
Holding a weekly family meeting is key to reducing parental stress, says Bruce Feiler, a best-selling author and preeminent thinker about the intersection of families, relationships, spirituality, health and happiness.
A family meeting helps empower children while allowing a “safe space” for children to vent about whatever they want — even the grown-ups in their lives, Feiler writes for Harvard Business Review. It also allows for flexibility. When parents and children recognize that family life is always changing and may need to be altered from time to time, they can together work on an “agile development” solution the author champions.
This type of meeting isn’t just good for adults, either. Feiler says that children who plan their own time, have weekly goals and evaluate their work are forming executive functioning skills that will help them develop motivation and self-discipline that will assist them later in life.
How to Institute Family Meetings
To start with, family meetings should be done regularly; once a week would be a good timeframe. Feiler suggests asking three questions: Find out what worked well in the family during the previous week, what didn’t work, and what the family will agree to work on in the following week.
And Leahy says parents should use the time to check in with children, go over needs, and end with some fun. It doesn’t matter what approach you take (rewards, consequences, or whatever you as a family decide) but rather the fact that bonding time is being used to make expectations clear.
Leahy also suggests writing family meeting decisions down. Don’t expect your kids to be thrilled about consequences, even if they were involved in deciding what those are. Praise even small steps towards your goal and stay positive.
I think this idea is definitely worth a shot and will try it out on a weekend when we aren’t rushing to school or as many activities. I’m interested to see what my kids think we can do to fix our hectic mornings!
This one trick will help you get your kids out of the house on time originally appeared on Simplemost.com, helping make the most out of life.