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By Steve Dennis
A young boy watched as his father outlined his business contacts, appointments, and prioritized his tasks for the busy day to come. The boy asked, "Dad, what's in your book?" The father responded, "This is my planner, where I keep a list of all the important people I know and things I must do." After some reflection, the boy responded, "Dad, is my name in there?"
Often we think of family time as something that will just happen as an automatic part of family life. For many, the idea of bringing mission statements, goals, meeting agendas and minutes home from the workplace seems too formal for the family. But would most businesses be successful if they were managed like our families? Steven R. Covey has suggested that, "Many families are managed on the basis of crises, moods, quick fixes, and instant gratification--not sound principles."
He suggests that for families and business to be successful, they must be proactive, not reactive. One of the best ways to be proactive or intentional about our family is to hold a regular family meeting or family council. Elder M. Russell Ballard has said, "There has never been a time when the world was in greater need of the strength and security that are best sown and cultivated in the deep, fertile soil of family love. The family is under heavy attack from antagonists bent on extinguishing this powerful source of light in a darkening world. Successful families have a wide assortment of tools, and one of the most useful tools is the family council.("Family Councils: A Conversation with Elder and Sister Ballard," Ensign, Jun 2003, 14)
A family meeting can be an opportunity to clarify expectations, celebrate accomplishments, strengthen communication, teach one another, resolve problems, and build commitment to family time. Without a regular avenue to discuss family issues, miscommunication is common, and problems are often discussed only when they have come to a boil. Such a time is hardly the best time to resolve problems in a loving and cooperative way.
Of course, family meetings can also be disastrous if they are held only when cookies are missing from the cookie jar or the chore list needs to be passed out. Instead, they can be positive by planning for good times, and celebrating family achievements. Family meetings are most successful when they are held regularly, follow a simple agenda, record assignments and outcomes, and share the responsibility for running the meeting. They should also be short, fun, and end on a high note--like chocolate! Some families find having a gavel is fun. Others share the floor by passing a "talking stick". Still other families have found that ending with a family hug, or family song is useful. Family meetings can make a real difference in your life. Look in your planner. Have you made time for your family? Schedule a meeting--a family meeting.
Steve Dennis is a member of the faculty in the Department of Home and Family at Brigham Young University - Idaho