If you want to make habit training a habit, then family meetings are really helpful. But, these family meetings should focus on habits, and not just the typical “state of the family” meetings that many people hold. According to The Center for Parenting Education, a non-profit organization, holding regular family meetings supports family bonding, helps children develop higher self-esteem, and helps children understand how to solve problems, among many other benefits. A family habits meeting carries these benefits as well as allows parents and children to develop plans for forming positive habits, or breaking those pesky bad habits.
The idea to hold meetings like this came from James Duhigg’s book, The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business (affiliate link.) He recommended these weekly meetings to get the whole family involved in establishing new habits for each family member. I’ve spent some time brainstorming what this should look like in a Charlotte Mason home. Often, when people talk about habits, they mean the concrete things that we do each day. How can we apply these same principles to habits that are often more abstract, like paying attention and obeying?
Family Habits Meetings
While establishing your family habits meetings, think about a night when you already do something fun. Maybe you have a weekend game or movie night. Add your meeting right before that event. When we put an event that might come with a little bit of resistance with something that everyone looks forward to, it makes it easier to do. And, if you are already in the habit of doing a special family night, adding a meeting close to the same time will help make it a more natural habit.
Come to your meeting prepared. Think about the habits that you’ve worked on the week before, and if the approach needs some altering, or if you’re ready to tackle a new habit. Per the nature of a family meeting, children should have some say in this, but in my experience, when they try to think of habits that they want to work on, the habits aren’t all that beneficial to the family. As sweet as it would be for Miss H to get in the habit of song-writing, this is something we can tackle in our free time and not when we’re looking for ways to improve our family’s daily grind! I suggest having in mind the habit you would like your children to work on, and then involving them in the process of making a plan for each habit. Ask them what you can do to make the habit come easily to them. (Because if it’s difficult, it will probably fall to the wayside in a matter of days!)
Often when we approach habits, we say, “I’m going to do this every day!” but we don’t give much thought to how we will do that. Or, we pick huge habits, like going to the gym everyday, and then get frustrated when we miss Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Break the habits up into small, manageable bits. If your goal is to have your children obey you, start small. Maybe they could get into the habit of saying, ‘Yes, mom,” after you ask them to do something. Or maybe your habit could be that they obey you promptly when you ask them to make their bed each morning (although, eventually you will want them to get into that habit all on their own!”
Make a Habit Statement
Recently, I’ve been helping my kids work on clearing the table completely after meals, and as we get up from the table, I start cleaning the kitchen immediately rather than being pulled into someone’s game (which is so precious, it just makes for a messy kitchen!) Some days, we did well with this habit, and other days I completely forgot. After paying attention, I realized that my cue for cleaning the kitchen is to get up from the table. On days that I was in a hurry and didn’t sit down for a meal, but ate quickly over the island while my kids sat at the table, the kitchen remained a mess and the bowls, cups, and napkins stayed on the table. So, in order to work on the habit of cleaning the kitchen and table after each meal, I needed to work on the habit of sitting down at each meal.
To do this, I needed to make a habit statement, not just a wishy-washy proclamation of, “Oh, I really need to sit down for meals!” Here are my two habit statements:
When I put the kids meals on the table, I will sit down to eat with them.
When I stand up from finishing my meal, I will go clean the kitchen in entirety.
Planning out habits like this helps us address the cue, the action before the habit that reminds us of what we’re going to do next. During your family habits meetings, discuss the cues that will help with each habit, and any environmental changes that might need to happen to help with the habit.
Family Habit Meeting Planner
While it’s definitely easier to develop concrete habits, by planning and approaching little parts of each habit at a time, it’s possible. Bring your whole family into the process to build deeper bonds and to get everyone excited about the habit training journey. I’ve created a family habits meeting planner that I wanted to share with you. It gives you space to write your habit training statement and process. Post it somewhere visible so you remember what to work on that week!