Thursday, January 31, 2008

Children's Jobs and our Family Meetings

Last week I noted in the Letting children do it for themselves post, that I was going to work at banishing the "clean up fairy" in my house. I am pleased to say that I have made significant progress towards this goal.

At our Family Meeting (FM) last week, I raised the issue of children's jobs we allocated new tasks to all kids. We all had input on this issue and came up with a list of jobs for each child. They have been carrying out their new responsibilities ever since (albeit only a few days!). To give you a better idea of how we did this, I will give you some background on what our whole FM process is about.

  • To provide a communication strategy to deal with contentious issues.
  • To create a forum where all voices are equal.
  • A place to jointly plan activities and areas of home life.
  • To role mode and offer opportunities for the kids to practice decision making, negotiation and problem solving skills.
  • To create a sense of ownership of family decisions.

long tail keyword
Time: It has a regular time and day. We choose late Sunday afternoons, as this is a time when we are all most likely to be at home.

Place: For a while we used to have the meetings on the floor in the sitting room, however we have moved to having them at the dinner table. This location has worked much better as the children are sitting up straight and there are less distractions around them.

Attendees: All family members are expected to attend. If someone cannot come due to another activity, then the meeting can still go ahead and they can give their input prior to the meeting. There are times when a child may state that they do not want to come to the FM. I simply remind them that it is their decision as to whether they participate or not, but they will still have to abide by the outcomes of the FM. They usually change their mind then and decide to come.

Rotating Convenor: Everyone has the opportunity to convene the meeting as it is rotated amongst all family members. At this stage Babaganouski does not actively participate in the FM, so he does not have a go. Our 4 year old Possum has a turn and is assisted by mum or dad.

Minutes: Minutes are taken at each meeting and are always reviewed as first agenda item in FM. The minutes are very helpful if we have to clarify decisions and it also puts accountability back on mum and dad. If we agreed to certain things, then the children can hold us to account on it. For example when we decided on what we wanted to do over the school holidays (see Planned Holiday Activities for the Children), we reviewed those items a number of times to ensure that I had coordinated or organised the agreed upon events.

Time Frame: Due to the age of the children participating, we aim to have the meeting go for no more than 20 minutes. Their attention and enthusiasm wanes dramatically if we go past this point.

Raised Hand: Everyone must raise their hand and be acknowledged by the convenor before they can speak.

Consensus Decision Making: In brief this means that we must keep working on a resolution until we have one that all family members can agree to. This is critical to the success of our FM. No one should leave the FM feeling that they have not been listened to or their needs have not been taken into consideration. This does not mean kids get exactly what they want, it actually teaches them about compromise and that sometimes to get agreement they have to make some concessions. It also teaches them to work out what are the key points they must have and teaches them to use persuasive arguments.

Agenda Items: Although we use a formal structure for the FM, they are generally light hearted and fun. They are not allowed to degenerate to a complaining session. When raising an item, the family member is expected to state the problem (if there is one) and then put forward a solution proposal for discussion.
Quite often the meeting is just more of a sharing time, where kids or adults provide updates to the family on areas of their life or items of interest (eg Collingwood's great win on the weekend, dad will be in Sydney for two day next week etc.)However, when there are items that will require some negotiation and discussion, I will give the children advance notice that I will be bringing it up at the next FM.

The last point leads me back to moving to get rid of the "cleaning fairy" by allocating new jobs to the children. After writing the post on Friday, I informed all family members that I would be raising this issue at the upcoming FM. I suggested that they give some thought to the jobs that they are capable of doing and might like to do. I did this, because as I was going to be coming to the meeting with a defined proposal, they also needed time to mull over the idea.

The amazing thing was that at the FM, with the exception of one or two small things, the kids suggestions (we went through theirs first), matched up with my own! There was then some minor negotiation on a couple of jobs, but consensus was achieved quite quickly.

Below I have listed their existing jobs, along with their new ones which are in bold.

Thinker (aged 9)
Morning: Make bed, tidy bedroom, clear own breakfast dishes, stack every ones breakfast dishes into dishwasher, pack own school bag.
Afternoon: Lunchbox and notices out of bag, empty compost bucket (as required)
Dinner: Make drinks, clear own plate
After bath: dirty clothes in laundry basket, towel hung up in bathroom, share in the general tidy session before he can move to allocated TV/PC time.
Extra Weekend Job: Sort dirty washing and put on one load.

Little Rascal (aged 6)
Morning: Make bed, tidy bedroom, clear own breakfast dishes, return juice and milk to the fridge, pack own school bag.
Afternoon: Lunchbox and notices out of bag, empty kitchen bin and clean up dog poo (as required)
Dinner: Set place mats, clear own plate
After bath: dirty clothes in laundry basket, towel hung up in bathroom, share in the general tidy session before he can move to allocated TV/PC time.
Extra Weekend Job: Sort clean washing into piles (at least one load).
Possum (aged 4)
Morning: Make bed, tidy bedroom, clear own own breakfast dishes, return cereal boxes to the cupboard, pack own kinder bag
Afternoon: Lunchbox and drink bottle out of bag,
Dinner: Set cutlery, clear own plate
After bath: dirty clothes in laundry basket, towel back to bathroom, share in the general tidy session before she can move to allocated TV/PC time.
Extra Weekend Job: Assist mum with folding the washing (at least one load).

Babaganouski (21 months)
These tasks are directed and sometimes assisted, but he generally likes to help out like everyone else.
Dinner: put sauces and other condiments on the table (as required)
After bath: dirty washing in laundry basket, take towel back to the bathroom,

How have you gone? Made any changes to the way things are run in your house?

PS. Little Rascal actually volunteered for the job of picking up the dog poo!


Cath said...

I love the family meeting idea - I look forward to hearing what the retired clean up fairy is doing with all her spare time.....

The Preschool Mama said...

Great ideas! Very doable chores for kindergarteners. Thanks for the tips. I've wanted to expand on something like this for a while now.

Thanks for adding me to your blog roll!