“Put that phone down!” “I’m sick of always clearing the table!” “Damn, but we said you put your toys away if you take them out in the living room!” Does that type of phrase mean anything to you? To transform moments of friction into a rule of shared life, my friend Caroline, mother of Isis (6 years old), Noah (10 years old) and Sid (16 years old), set up the Family Council: a moment of sharing to find set of solutions with respect and benevolence.
The family council, do you know? A morning like any other: my daughter watches Pokétruc on TV, my son plays on my phone, our teenager is reading a comic book on his cell phone (did you know that there are plenty of free manga on smartphones? 😉), my husband bump on the tablet in the sofa. I’m asking a question. Once, twice, three times ! No answer ! I go crazy in the rules and start bawling that I’m fed up with screens and playing autistic stuck … (well, maybe it’s just because I didn’t have my phone to play on myself- same 🙃).
It is urgent to find a solution that does not fall under the putsch. Because let’s be frank, once the “rant” has passed, we are back to good habits, right?
So, I feel ready to roll up my sleeves and consider a new tool that I’ve been keen to experiment with for a while: place in the family council.
In fact, I must admit that it took me a while to get started. I could see all the educational richness of it, but I had fear of “losing control” 🤯😱! Finally, it’s a great way to gain confidence in our children, to see their incredible clairvoyance, to open the discussion… 😉
Why set up a family council at home?
Thomas Gordon, the founding father of the Gordon Method said “When people participate in solving a problem and develop a solution that is acceptable to all, then they feel it is theirs.”
the family council is to sit together and collectively make decisions which concern the family in a way common and shared. The idea is to be able to address all the aspects that can generate friction, tension or misunderstanding. In fact, originally Thomas Gordon worked on conflict resolution by learning communication techniques.
With us, the family council is a space of co-construction where we evolve together: we try, we discuss and we adjust! (Well, most of the time 😉).
Concretely, how does a family council work?
Our family council is built around 4 keys:
1 – The master of ceremonies
Each in turn takes the role of meeting leader, even the smallest. “So it seems to me that today is Isis’ turn to officiate as master of ceremonies. Is it OK for you my dear? ”
2 – The agenda
We can make the agenda according to the experience of the week or on points that everyone wishes to address. “For today, we start with a round of“ flowers ”(gratitude and thanks). Then we said we would talk about tidying up the bedrooms. Mom wanted to know what would be our desires for the holidays … And also, can we talk about candy after birthdays? Is this OK for everyone? ”
Moreover, to put the foot in the stirrup, Charlotte and CPMHK have concocted us a great “Family Council” kit free to print and fill out. To receive it, leave us your email and we will send you your kit to print immediately! 👉
3 – Listen and look for solutions that suit everyone
In problem solving, we try to use the “YES AND” mode rather than the “YES, BUT” to which we are so used, but which tends to cut short the discussion. For example, if we choose the vacation destination, rather than “I hear you want to go to the sea, but we were there last year”… let’s try instead “Oh yes, the sea is great, AND I would like to discover hiking while traveling with a donkey…” This allows you to feel welcomed and listened to.
Sometimes we agree on a rule to try, sometimes we don’t find immediate common ground, and we suggest keeping that topic for a future session.
4 – Experiment and adjust
“OK, so we’re trying this solution for next week. And we talk about it again at the next family council to debrief? ”
As in Charlotte’s coaching sessions, we think dynamically: we try, we advise, we correct, we continue … Sometimes it’s when you experience things that you realize their limits.
For example, on the issue of screens, we had agreed to leave the children the possibility of managing the time spent themselves (I admit that I chomped at the bit for a week for 😉). The following week, I shared that we had done less of the fun things as a family like games, walks or crafts and that I was saddened not to enjoy those moments. The kids agreed to that too. Suddenly, we agreed on the fact of plan time together.
What framework should be given to the family council?
The setting is of fundamental importance in the “success” of the family council. Here are the ingredients to focus on.
Of course, we remain the parents. But that doesn’t prevent us from being attentive, open to discussion and problem-solving collectively.
the respect mutuel is fundamental: no mockery, invective, judgment, power grab, etc. Imagine that we are in a work meeting, the others have as much the right to express themselves as we do and their ideas are just as important (yes, yes, I assure you 😉!). OK, it’s far from always easy! And yes, we have not always learned to be in empathy and this change in communication (mode Non-violent communication) requires vigilance and effort (it’s like when you learn to drive, at the beginning you think, and little by little, it becomes automatic)!
Each in turn (no obligation)
Everyone can take the floor in turn to express their feelings about a situation (by passing why not a ‘ talking stick ”). Of course, we do not cut off the speaker 😊. We also have the right to remain silent, if it’s fairer to us for a while. There, the role of the “head of council” will also be important: he will have to allow the silent (s) to express themselves and the most vehement ones to give way …
Express yourself in I
The principle is to talk about yourself and your feelings, avoiding putting the other in question. “Mom, when you scream like that, I feel like I suck. It scares me and I don’t understand why you get angry when you too often play on the phone… ”. When we start from our feelings, the interlocutor has less tendency to question what is said.
What does a family council change in education?
In the air of participatory management, imagine the skills that these discussions can instill in our children: being able to pose calmly, without questioning or criticizing the other, by explaining our fears or our reluctance … Put in place a parent-child family council makes it possible to:
- involve children in decisions by explaining (or even debating) choices while taking suggestions into account,
- find solutions to difficulties, problematic situations or conflicts,
- strengthen family ties by showing confidence, openness and respect,
- equip our children to trust their feelings and express themselves respectfully,
- promote autonomy children,
- help parents be aware of resources of our kids (by letting them experiment, we let them take responsibility for their choices… or we realize that our fears were not as well founded as we thought!).
So, give it a try and tell us how it went… And if you fancy putting some seeds of change while having a good time, take a look at the Cool Boost, a great program created by Charlotte where we share and where we benefit from the collective and benevolent dynamic (for parents of children from 0 to 18 years old). It’s good to take small steps towards change together!