Family Councils, either formal or informal, are a great way to keep communication in families open. They are also a good way to solve problems. The following situation could have turned into a crisis, but because this mom and her kids had been talking to each other often and in an open and honest way, the problem was solved relatively easily.
Paul and his twin sister, Susan, loved to play video games. Mario Kart was their favorite. Mom helped them set up their system so they could race on line with their cousins who lived in a distant city.
Mom, a single parent, working full time and going to school at night, thought it was a way for the children to connect with family and keep them busy when she had a test to study for.
Susan enjoyed playing with her cousins some of the time, but she also liked to read and spend time with her friends after school. Paul, on the other hand, couldn’t leave the game alone. He took his mom’s credit card and downloaded several new games his buddies told him about. His playing time increased, his grades dropped, and he became irritable.
At the end of the month, Mom opened the credit card bill to pay it. When she saw the game charges, she was angry. She knew if she talked to Paul right then, they would have a fight, and she didn’t want that. She decided to check to her social work teacher that night and get his suggestions.
His answer surprised her. “You have to decide the principle you want to teach,” he said. “Also, make a list of the possible methods you could use and the message they would send your son.”
Mom decided she wanted to teach him to be responsible for his actions.
She made a list of the possible ways to teach this and the message each would send.
*If I give an angry lecture, he will think he is flawed and worthless. He will feel resentful.
*If I give a calm lecture, he will still see himself as flawed. He will feel guilty.
*If I just give consequences, I will teach him that I am in charge.
*If we just have a discussion, he will know he can get away with anything he wants.
*If we have a solution-focused discussion, he will feel responsible for his actions and know he can correct his mistakes.
Mom and the children sat down together to solve the problem. (Mom included Susan in the discussion because the twins were so close. They talked about everything with each other anyway.)
First, Mom showed them the bill on line. They were very interested because they had never seen a credit card bill.
Next Mom signed into the school web site and pulled up Paul’s grades.
Paul hung his head.
Mom put her hand on his shoulder. “We have a couple of problems here. How are we going to solve them?”
The three of them brainstormed ideas and negotiated a solution that would work for them.
*Both children had to have their homework done before any kind of play.
*Paul had a list of jobs to do to pay for the games he charged.
* Furthermore, if Paul showed he could play the games responsibly, he could continue to work to earn enough money to buy (or rent) games approved by his mother.
Learn more about this family council situation and many other in Family Talk: How to Organize Family Meetings to Solve Problems and Strengthen Relationships
Because this family was able to talk about their problem and find a solution, everyone felt better. Strength in children is built by helping them solve their difficulties and learn a better way. Next time Paul will make a better choice because a check and balance system is in place. Good communication will foster his growth.
Some of the messages family councils give children are:
*I am important.
* I am accountable.
*I can be responsible for myself.
*I can handle tough situations.
*I can negotiate.
*I am a problem-solver.
*I am successful.
Begin holding family councils. Share daily problems with your children and ask them to help you solve each situation. The skills kids will learn from doing this will benefit them the rest of their lives in their daily living and whatever their chosen vocation.
Christy Monson, M.A., (retired) established a successful counseling practice in Las Vegas, Nevada, as a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. www.christymonson.com
Photo credit © Smellme