As with so many families – our morning routine was THE. PITS. I found myself completely stressing out and saying things like “I HATE THE MORNINGS!” Ugh. Somehow, even with all my frustration swirling around, both of my boys were like “It’s working for me mommy.” How was that even possible?????? I can’t tell you how many days in a row my older son was late for school. Ummmmm… How many days has he been in school this semester? I’ll let you make your own assumptions.
Mornings always got me to a point where I felt like a drill sergeant in need of an oxygen mask to keep me from passing out on the spot. While I can’t wait to hear your comments on these ideas, before you comment with suggestions like “make a chart,” “let them check their tasks off the chart,” “make it a game,” “see if both boys will help one another,” or a million other things that I’ve already tried, I can save you the trouble. I’ve already tried. All of these great ideas would work for maybe a day. They just weren’t working consistently. It wasn’t that they were trying to make things hard, they just wanted to focus on other things that were more important to them (playing) and they were easily distracted. They are six and four. It’s what they do. I needed a system that we were all personally invested in creating and following. It had to come from the “bottom” of our family structure and percolate upwards – towards “management.” And then I remembered… Agile Programming. Family Meeting. For those of you in the corporate world, you may be familiar with the term agile programming.
Last year, I started reading The Secrets of Happy Families: Improve Your Mornings, Tell Your Family History, Fight Smarter, Go Out and Play, and Much More by Bruce Feiler. I didn’t finish – but loved what I was reading, loved the way he was using agile programming with families and I knew I’d come back to it. He was seeking out the “smartest solutions and the most cutting edge research about families.” Feiler wasn’t going to the usual suspects. No way. He “sought out the most creative minds from Silicone Valley to the set of Modern Family, from the country’s top negotiators to the Green Berets – and asked them what team building exercises and problem-solving techniques they use with their families.” This is my kind of guy. Solution oriented. Green Berets – for family advice? Brilliance. Team building exercises – that’s what I wanted us to be – a team!!! Feiler has a wonderful TED talk about agile programming for the family that you may want to watch. I wanted to use Feiler’s ideas about holding a family meeting. Below, Feiler gives a quick tip for getting the children invested in a family meeting.
I started our family meeting by explaining what I thought was working with our morning routine (a very short explanation…) and then I went on to talk about what I felt like we could discuss and improve upon as we went through the family meeting. I asked everyone for their input. We kept it super simple. I did not offer any of the solutions. The proposed ideas all came from the boys themselves. The meeting was short and sweet and it all came down to two rules: 1. NO complaining in the mornings; and 2. NO playing with anything until you are completely ready for school. That was it. Two sentences. Two rules – rules that the boys had come up with on their own! We had quick reminders on Sunday night about the two rules that we would use in the morning. Upon waking, we reminded them of the rules one more time. When we were ready to leave 15 minutes early, I sent them outside and they got extra playtime with the puppy. Everyone was crazy happy. Crazy. Happy. It was like I had woken up in somebody else’s house (although, not bragging or anything, but I don’t think anyone’s family runs as smoothly as ours did that morning).
To get started building a stronger, more team-like family, Feiler prepared “The Happy Families Toolkit.” It covers all the ideas from his book – not just family meetings, and it’s a wonderful tool!
Our first official family meeting was not organized enough to follow all of Feiler’s ideas for a family meeting, but our family meeting still worked. I’m sure we will have plenty a family meeting along the way that don’t – but we’re moving towards something. The structure of our family meeting will continue to be a work in progress as we have more and more meetings. The boys were sufficiently empathetic with my frustration that they were willing to try anything. We agreed to reconvene for a second family meeting in one week to see how our ideas were working. But they were working so well, I was impatient. I wanted to know their reactions. So I’ve asked several times this week for feedback. Both boys commented that our new ideas from our family meeting were amazing! My older son LOVED getting to school on time. Every. Day. This. Week. BAM!