Do you want to know one of the biggest keys to success my clients use to manage Screen Time and Technology? I bet you’re thinking it’s an app, or program or router you can purchase, right? While those things do play a huge role in what we do, that’s not the magical ingredient. Would you be totally shocked if I told you it was something FREE that you could do yourself today?! When I asked my successful clients what has made the biggest impact in how they manage Screen Time and Technology their response was continuing the weekly family meeting I helped them start.
You’re probably thinking a Family Meeting is a place where you lay out the rules, right? Yes and no. It’s so much more than that. It’s a council, where each person gives his or her opinion, insight and input. We come up with rules, consequences AND solutions TOGETHER—the parents, the kids, and myself. I participate in one family meeting, and then the families continue these meetings long after I’ve gone. The family meetings become more than a place to work schedules out. They become a place of discussion, deliberation and problem solving that teaches valuable life lessons beyond family structures.
So why is this simple thing the “magical ingredient” in my security recipe box? It’s more than just sitting your kids down and going over the rules and telling them what the punishments are going to be. When I first started as a security consultant, I watched parents painfully and patiently as they conducted family meetings like this:
There was little to no conversation or discussion about it. There wasn't even any adaptation of the contracts to fit the individual family needs. I’d talk briefly about the security measures that I was putting onto each of their devices and then everyone would be dismissed. Almost always (I’d say 95% of the time) I’d be called back within a month (sometimes days) to fix something. We’d repeat the same process over half a dozen times, sometimes. What was the key ingredient to those 5% clients that made my job easy? It was the way the initial family meeting was conducted.
I learned watching those families and talking to those “wayward” kids, that when everyone has an equal part, voice and is heard the rules work. It becomes a household run by laws and order—not a dictatorship. When I talked to those kids they said that being able to sit down and feel safe telling their parents exactly what they wanted—even if they had to compromise—they felt validated and more willing to comply with the rules. For children—especially tweens and teens—being able to sit down in a family meeting and have an open conversation was the key. More importantly for the parents, seeing and understanding their children’s viewpoints allowed them to really look at the contracts and see if they would bring the desired results they wanted. These Family Meetings are essential for managing the technology in their homes and adapting the rules to fit the fast-paced progression technology has.
I have seen many families try implementing various types of Family Meetings structures and all of them have been successful in some way. However, the thing I have observed and teach my clients is that YOU are the key to making the Family Meetings successful. We all want that magical potion that does everything for us, but is that really what we need in our lives? Being consistent, open, honest and intentional as a parent is the most successful part of making Family Meetings work.
I know, from personal and professional experience, that Family Meetings which turn into lectures, chastising, or even arbitrary tongue-lashings are a huge turn off to children and adults. We tire easily of the work these types of family meetings take, and they prove far less effective. The honest truth is that if you as the parent, leader and director of your home make it a point to listen first, these family meetings can be 100% effective in your home.
The important thing to remember with family meetings—like anything you implement in your home—is that you will have to customize it to what fits your family’s needs. Generally, in our home, we conduct family meetings on Saturdays or Sundays and follow this simple outline:
I will say this as well: we don’t always do everyone of these things in one meeting each week. Some of the items we conduct individually between my husband and myself or together parents to child. Do what works for you. I have had clients divide up meetings (younger and older kids), break meetings up with games and activities to increase engagement, or even conduct them on car rides!! Just do what works for you. And if you’re looking for more tricks to manage Screen Time, check out this post for more ideas!!