Family meetings based on equality

We have been doing family meetings for years now. At least once a week. Recently they have tended to fall apart: the two younger boys (6 and 10) get bored very quickly and the two teens (13 and 15) becoming apathetic. Other times they storm out of the room and slam the door.

I was wondering why this was happening. Everyone in the family considers the meetings important but when it comes to discussing certain issues such as study time and screen time, that is when the meetings disintegrate. So, I decided to stay out of the discussions at one of the meetings and observe instead. Here is what I noticed: us parents can’t hide our disappointment and the kids are constantly apologizing for not coming up to our expectations. When they realize what’s happening, they rebel and refuse to make any plans that would bind them.

So I suggested a sort of thought experience, inspired by John Rawls’ veil of ignorance concept. Let’s pretend that no one has a record of achievements (or failures), we don’t know about each other’s priorities, so no initial expectations. In Rawls’ experiment, you should act out of a position where you don’t know what role in the society you would take.

original_position
Philosophyink [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, from Wikimedia Commons
So, we as parents should try to envisage what it is like to be a teenage boy. We should try to remember for example what it feels like to concentrate on your study book when your body is overwhelmed by fluctuating hormones. They should on the other hand try to imagine how many different responsibilities we have as parents, citizens, income producers etc.

We tried this on Saturday morning. It was a complete failure: we all fell back in the old roles, we were on different pages, all of us, and the meeting ended up in arguments. We tried again on Sunday. It went somewhat better: we noticed when we were blaming each other and immediately tried to correct it. But we avoided discussing the biggest issues. At least we managed to do the planning for the day…

We’ll keep trying. It takes practice. In the meantime, I will work one on one with them on the big issue: SCREEN TIME! I have great expectations from coaching methods in this regard. I’m working with the kids on an experiment aimed to find out what is motivating them when they sit down at their gaming computer or the phone. If you think that your kids are spending too much time on internet, please follow and comment my posts tagged “teenage screen time”! I will appreciate it.

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