Family Meetings

family meetings for parenting success

A family meeting gives every member of the family a chance to express himself freely in all matters of both difficulty and pleasure pertaining to the family. The emphasis should be on “What we can do about the situation.” Meet regularly at the same time each week. Rotate the leader. Keep minutes. Have an equal vote for each member. Only bring those concerns to the family meeting, which are negotiable. Require a consensus, rather than a majority vote on each decision. Some family rules are non-negotiable. Perhaps explanations or reinforcement of a rule would be appropriate.

Have fun together and thereby help to develop a relationship based on enjoyment, mutual respect, love and affection, mutual confidence and trust, and a feeling of belonging. Instead of talking to nag, scold, preach, and correct, utilize talking to maintain a friendly relationship. Speak to your child with the same respect and consideration that you would express to a good friend.

Real World Math: Putting kids in charge of their own money

Spending money! The perfect setup for real-world learning and natural consequences!

There are many methods for giving kids an allowance — tied to chores, tied to age, bonuses-for-extra-work, etc. How (or if) one gives an allowance is rooted in one’s family culture, and doesn’t lend itself to pat directives. But, no matter how you decide to give your kids an allowance, I find the key to increasing its power as a teaching tool is to put your kids in charge of how they spend their money.

Putting buying decisions in my kids’ hands has done wonders for their money savvy, consumer awareness, and math skills. Specifically:

  • Addition and subtraction (“How much to I still have to earn to buy x? How much will I have left if I buy y?”)
  • Percentage (“Hey, Mom! Museum members get 10% off in the gift shop!”)
  • Fractions (“Hey, Mom! X is on sale for half price!”)
  • Decimals (dollars and cents)
  • Quality vs. value (“It’s cheap, but it might break the second time I use it.”)
  • Needs vs. wants…or wants vs. other wants (“I want that video game, but maybe I should save my money for an iPad 2.”)
  • Long-term goals (“I want to buy a car when I get my license.”)

A few key details make this strategy work:

Allowance must be big enough to be meaningful.

I got two bucks a week when I was a kid, but it was more of a token payment than anything else. We pay our kids an allowance equal to their age. Half goes to “spending money,” and half goes to “long-term savings” which they get when they move out. They choose what to do with money they receive for jobs or gifts (spend it all or save part of it).

If they ask, I also “cash out” gift cards. That is, if they receive a store-specific gift card but would prefer the cash, I buy it from them, knowing it’s a matter of time till I shop at that store myself.

We choose not to formally tie allowance to chores or work, except for specific jobs such as lawn mowing or washing the car. For us, changing the context from “family responsibility” to “cash for work” decreases teamwork and increases conflict and loophole-finding.

We no longer buy treats and trinkets.

This is essential. No more lollipops in the checkout line. No more cheap toys. The only way kids learn to assess value is to pay for impulse purchases themselves.

This also goes for “upgrades” to purchases we cover. For example, we have a certain budget for school clothing. If our kids want the too-expensive pair of shoes (or whatever), they kick in the extra.

We advise our kids on purchases if they ask, but we don’t judge what they buy.

My kids decide what’s valuable to them. Beyond the most basic guidelines (nothing unsafe or offensive), they can buy whatever they want with their own money. Sometimes they buy candy or crap toys, but rarely…they decided early on it’s a waste of money.

We track allowance and spending electronically.

The roadblock we kept hitting was the actual handling of cash. We never had proper change when it was allowance time (or we’d forget to pay it). Someone would forget their wallet, or forget to put their money in the wallet, etc. We’d buy stuff for the kids, forget to get paid back…you get the picture.

An iPhone app solved the problem: Kiddy Bank. This simple app is little more than a smart ledger, automatically adding allowance each week, with the ability to debit for purchases and credit for earnings and gifts. We’ve created separate spendings- and savings “accounts” for each of the kids, as their allowances and savings rates are different. The app is not connected to an actual bank account, so no money actually moves around.

So there you have it…our allowance strategy. I’d love to hear what’s working for you.

Ron Huxley’s Remembrance: I remember getting $1 every Sunday, as a child, for my allowance. I would walk my brother and sister down to the corner market and we would spend that dollar. I would get three comic books and a chocolate malt. The day the comic books went from twenty-five cents to thirty-five cents was devastating for me. I had to make an important decision. Did I buy one less comic book or skip the malt? I ended up getting one less comic book.

This was math for me as a child. The ideas in this article can help you teach some simple life skills to your child as well. It covers some of the common obstacles and manipulations that might come up.

Help Children Visualize Their Chores…and get them done!

Chore-allowance system

We all know this: what works for one family doesn’t work for another. Such is the case with motivation systems, star charts, and other ways of tracking and rewarding chores.

Kelly Wickham (Mocha Momma) shared her friend’s gorgeous system that solves three problems at the same time.

  • It reminds kids about their household responsibilities
  • It gives them a way to “check off” tasks as they finish them
  • It makes a perfectly clear connection between the completion of chores and the reward (or earnings, as they should more accurately be called)

Be sure to read Kelly’s post detailing this system and why it’s working – there’s much more to this story.

Read the full post at Mocha Momma: Motivating Children to Do Chores

Teaching independence with the piece of apple principle

Putting away laundry is often a long, lonely and profoundly boring activity that takes up so much time.
Babies generate a huge amount of laundry and cloth nappies. Toddlers and preschoolers with their rough and tumble, exploratory play.
We eventually work out a routine but countless hours are devoted to it each week. Piles loom and perhaps get moved from room to room or chair to basket.
Children love the side by side play while we are working. As I sweep he’s sweeping too. As I cook, he’s stirring too. They love to imitate and we can teach them in small steps how to do the larger things with the piece of apple technique.


Piece of apple technique

Let me tell you a quick story about the piece of apple technique. My boys love apples. If I quickly cut the apple into two huge slices either side of the core. Cut those two pieces into three, then cut the two pieces off the odd-shaped original apple, we quickly have eight pieces of apple.
Those apples when left on a plate disappear almost before the plate hits the table. Also when there’s one person eating the apple they are quick to eat it all. However, when I suggest they eat the apple by just biting it, perish the thought now, the apple isn’t often finished.
  • It somehow becomes too much to eat by itself
  • We eat in that classic pattern and leave big chunks at the top and bottom
  • It’s not a satisfactory outcome for me the apple buyer and them the apple eater.

They need to eat one piece then the next piece and so on to complete. It won’t always be like that but right now this system works for us both; the piece of apple technique.

So what does this story have to do with laundry?

We need to give our children a piece of the apple by teaching them and training them in the laundry process; piece by piece. Eventually they will be able to eat the whole apple and not blink an eye.


Ron Huxley Eats: I love simple parenting techniques and this is as basic as it comes…thankfully. Teach children to do tasks one step at a time but remember to teach them. Don’t yell or threaten to get compliance. Parents have to look at the job of parenting when in a challenging moment with a child.