It did not start well. The girls were stressed, knowing there were certain things they hadn't done yet that were supposed to be accomplished since last week's meeting. They entered it without the first "rule" of family meetings: come with a good attitude. They were defensive from the start.
I tried to let it slide, remaining calm, but as they broke more meeting rules by interrupting me repeatedly, I lost my good attitude. I cut the meeting short, and put myself in time out.
What was I doing wrong? In a flash, I remembered the most important lesson I've learned from my therapist, SuperNanny, and my own experience: it's never them that's the problem, it's me. So where had I gone wrong?
I remembered something else I heard from a friend: children need to hear 5 positive comments for every critique.
While the meetings weren't about being critical of each other, they were concentrated on more things we needed to do, more responsibilities, more pressure.
I called the meeting back to order, and told them our first order of business was to write 5 things we like about each other. Their faces softened.
I told Sylvia 5 things I like about her, and she told me 5. Then it was Riley's turn with me so we could complete the process with the girls saying nice things to each other. I told them to keep in mind throughout the week things that they appreciated about one another, and that this will be on the agenda every week. These meetings aren't supposed to be about tearing our family apart, but strengthening us. Part of that has to include taking the time to praise one another. Not only that, but taking the time to write it down, and then to say it out loud to each other.
We also handled the other items, less defensive now, more willing to listen, and brimming with ideas. Then we went out to dinner to celebrate Sylvia's Student of the Month Award.
By the way, Mandy mentioned that her family has these meetings over dinner. While I agree about the importance of a family dinner, I would rather use that time to just be. I prefer for each of us to have pen and paper, have the calendar handy, and not worry about getting upstaged by the last piece of garlic bread!