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TABLE OF CONTENTS

FAMILY MEETINGS

 

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WHAT A FAMILY MEETING IS NOT

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WHAT A FAMILY MEETING IS

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WHY ARE FAMILY MEETINGS IMPORTANT?

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WHY ARE FAMILY MEETINGS IMPORTANT? (CONTD)

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WHO CAN FAMILY MEETINGS BENEFIT?

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WHAT ARE MODERN DAY FAMILY MEETING SOLUTIONS?

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THE APPROACH

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THE ASSOCIATION

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HOW DO YOU DO A FAMILY MEETING?

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EFFECTIVE FAMILY MEETING IN TODAYS WORLD

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HIKE! THE KICK-OFF MEETING

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FIRST AND FOREMOST: “WHY ARE WE DOING THIS?”

 

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WHO WILL COME?

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COMPLETING THE FAMILY PROFILE DURING THE

KICK-OFF MEETING

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FAMILY TEAM NAME

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FAMILY COLORS

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MISSION STATEMENT AND FAMILY VISION

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FAMILY MOTTO

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FAMILY PICTURE

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FAMILY MASCOT OR LOGO

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RULES

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WHERE WILL WE MEET?

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WHEN WILL WE MEET?

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HOW WILL WE REMEMBER WHAT WE DID AT THE PREVIOUS MEETING?

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THE FAMILY MEETING AGENDA

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3D’S OF THE FAMILY MEETING AGENDA

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ACTION ITEMS

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OPEN FLOOR

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CLOSING THE MEETING

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CONCLUSION – DISCOVERING YOUR DIAMONDS

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HAVE FUN!

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LOOK, LIVE, LOVE, LAUGH

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Copyright © The National Family Meeting Association. All rights reserved.

Duplication and distribution of this report for commercial use is strictly prohibited without the express written consent of The National Family Meeting Association.

www.familymeetings.org

FAMILY MEETINGS

Family Meetings. What kinds of thoughts come to mind when you hear those two words? Perhaps you picture talking in the living room with all family members present. Or, maybe you envision playing a board game while seated around the kitchen table. Maybe your reaction is similar to that of a friend of mine: “Family meetings? Yeah, I tried that for about three weeks, but it didn’t work, so we kinda had to quit.”

It’s true, holding successful family meetings can be a challenge, but so is everything else in life. Face it, learning how to tie your shoes was a challenge too, but you mastered that, so you can also learn how to spend time with the people you love the most. (Even if you are still Velcro-dependent, you can learn how to have a family meeting.)

WHAT A FAMILY MEETING IS NOT

Most people think of family meetings as times of serious communication, often about controversial family issues. True, if you’re going to tackle issues like curfew, dating, or body piercing, it is usually best to do so with the entire family present for discussion. However, would you want to convene with people who only met to argue about different topics? Maybe so, if you were the star of your high school debate team, but your family meeting should not be a time of debate. That’s not to say that family meetings are strictly all fun and games. There is a balance of learning, discussion, and fun.

Inevitably, there will be times where certain family members are not in the mood to be pleasant to other family members, but the meeting is when animosities are set aside. It is a time for the family to remember that deep down, each person in the room is a loved family member. This is a time to show love, not to continue bickering. Come with a clear mind and a willing heart. The friend who quit family meetings after three weeks did so largely because she could not shake the memories of the family meetings her mother used to hold. Every meeting was held only when her mother was drunk.

In a well executed Family Meeting, there is a balance of learning, discussion, and fun. Modern Family Meeting solutions should offer this balance.

Family meetings are also not expendable. Unless a major family crisis hits before the meeting (accident, fire, flood), the meeting time should not be postponed or canceled. The priority of the family meeting speaks volumes to the children about the priority of the family. Cell phones should be off, and answering machines should be on. The world can wait one hour while you spend time with your family.

WHAT A FAMILY MEETING IS

Every family is different, and there is no such thing as a perfect, one-size-fits-all family meeting. Two families could do the same suggested meeting, and have two completely different meetings. Experience, needs, and personalities are factors that add variety and spice to your family time.

But if you were to give a general definition of a family meeting, it might look something like this: A family meeting is a safe time when all family members in the household gather together to learn, listen, and talk. It is a time when the family works together as a team, talks about things that are important to the family, and takes time to have fun with each other.

A family meeting can take place once a month, twice a month, once a week,

twice a week, three times a works for your family.

Well, you get the idea. Choose a consistent schedule that

WHY ARE FAMILY MEETINGS IMPORTANT?

Since family meetings involve communication, and communication is a keystone for any relationship, it follows that family meetings are vital for strengthening the family unit. If you aren’t actively working toward family unity, then you are drifting toward family disintegration. Either way, you are developing something. Family meetings are one way to make sure you are working toward a positive outcome.

Family counselors, social workers, and faith community leaders agree that one of the major benefits of a family meeting is the freedom to speak one’s opinion on a given topic. This is especially important for younger children. While the final decision will be made by either the parents or a family vote (depending on the decision), it gives a child a good feeling to know that his or her opinion on the subject is important to the rest of the family.

As personal thoughts and opinions are shared, other benefits will naturally follow. For example, family members can learn the fine art of respecting another person’s opinion, even when it is different from your own. Working through the decision-making process as a family is also a way for younger children to see how to arrive at a mutually acceptable decision without insisting on one way or the other.

WHY ARE FAMILY MEETINGS IMPORTANT? (CONT’D)

Consistently meeting at a set time can be challenging at first. In fact, if a family decides to have weekly meetings, it will take about six to eight weeks before the whole family feels settled and in the routine of family meetings. Once you are settled, you could decide (as a family) whether or not to change to bi-weekly meetings. Meeting once a month for a family meeting is better than not meeting at all, but don’t expect the family to settle into the family meeting routine.

At the first meeting, try to help your family understand the concept of and the reason for a weekly family meeting. It’s supposed to be a time for the family to draw together; not a just a set time to get a lecture from parents. Establish the importance of meeting together, and discuss how the meetings will benefit each family member. So, how will the meetings benefit each family member?

and discuss how the meetings will benefit each family member. So, how will the meetings benefit

WHO CAN FAMILY MEETINGS BENEFIT?

Family meetings aren’t just about helping the children; they are also a way for parents to benefit. One social worker noticed that parents who made the effort to have weekly family meetings increased their communication skills with their children and with their adult peers.

In some two-parent, two-income families, both parents have been able to schedule their work hours so one parent is always at home for the children. For these families, the family meeting is a special time when both parents are able to spend time together with the children.

One foster mother, in the process of adopting the foster children, found that having family meetings before and after the court hearings put the children more at ease. Staying informed of what was going on made the whole experience easier for the children.

Another main benefit of family meetings is that it allows every family member to express his or her opinion on any topic. Having someone listen to you is a basic human need, and children as well as adults need to know their voice is heard. However, we also need to learn to listen and respect other people’s opinions. Where better to learn this skill than at home?

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we also need to learn to listen and respect other people’s opinions. Where better to learn

WHAT ARE

MODERN DAY FAMILY MEETING SOLUTIONS?

Here’s a quick quiz:

1. The last time I used a typewriter was:

a. 1982

b. When I was forced to take a typing class in high school.

c. Typewriter keys have never sullied my fingers.

2. I last bought meat at a butcher shop instead of a grocery store:

a. When I was married in 1973.

b. I think there’s one in the area, but I’ve never gone.

c. No kidding! They used to have separate stores for meat?

3. I send mail using the US Postal Service:

a. Once a month.

b. Once a year, for the obligatory Christmas cards.

c. What was the question? I was busy texting on my cell phone.

I hope you got a chuckle or two from the quiz, but here’s the real point—if you don’t use a typewriter, go to a butcher shop, or send “snail mail,” why would you use old cumbersome workbooks and traditional methods to help you have a successful family meeting? This is the reason behind many of today’s modern Family Meetings solutions. They include family meeting binders, software, and websites.

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Using modern Family Meeting products, you will have hundreds of topics to chose from and customize to your family’s needs. Subjects range from the light-hearted and fun (Planning a Family Picnic) to learning life skills (How to Design a Family Budget) to more serious topics (How to Deal With Bullying). This array of topics removes the “What do I come up with for this week” pressure often felt by parents after the first few weeks of family meetings.

“What do I come up with for this week” pressure often felt by parents after the

THE APPROACH

As an athlete in high school and college, I found that working, struggling, and

triumphing together with my teammates forged a strong, family-like bond. After college,

I joined the corporate workforce, where “team meetings” were frequent. Between the

structure of the company meetings, and the fun of being a part of a sports team, I began to see how the two elements of structure and fun could be combined for effective meetings with my growing family.

In the course of researching how to have a good time of communication and fun with my children (i.e., family meetings), I began to accumulate a large pile of books and papers. Realizing that working through and adding to the stack of resources every week was time-consuming, costly, and quickly taking up too much bookshelf space, I began to search for solutions that would provide effective family meetings without taking up loads of extra space (and money!).

THE ASSOCIATION

I founded the National Family Meeting Association because I realized that too often,

family members may live under the same roof, but not really know each other. Often friends and other adult role models meet the emotional needs that should be initially met in the home. After careful thought about how the family meetings would be made available to families, the National Family Meeting Association was born.

I want to share solutions with families so that they can enjoy family meetings that are

effective, easy, enjoyable, enthusiastic, effective, encouraging, energizing, entertaining, and edifying for every family member. Who Can Benefit From Modern Family Meeting

Solutions?

Specifically, family leaders benefit by not having to search for family meeting resources; saving money by not having to purchase a lot of books; and by receiving numerous ideas and agendas to keep the meetings fresh, focused, and fun. The children benefit with the action list found in many of these solutions, to help them remember the jobs they are supposed to do, the open discussions also make it possible to bring up topics they may have hesitated to initiate in the past, and the variety of activities adds interest to each meeting.

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up topics they may have hesitated to initiate in the past, and the variety of activities

HOW DO YOU DO A FAMILY MEETING?

It has been said, “Everyone is a perfect parent until he or she actually becomes one.” In

other words, all the research and theories don’t really mean anything until you have put them to the test in your own family.

You are completely unique and different from any other person in this world, and the same is true for every person in your family. So, as you read this section on “How to do a Family Meeting,” keep in mind that this is a guideline, not a cookie cutter. The same is true for when you read about what a Family meeting looks like. The information is for you to use as a guideline, not a straightjacket.

A family meeting needs to have a foundation of unconditional love—a love that accepts

and loves no matter what.

As you try to have an official family meeting, you may find yourself sliding into a rigid attitude and meeting schedule. Do everything you can to avoid this trap. The family meeting is a time to relax and enjoy your family.

In the course of researching for this booklet, families and counselors alike also suggested

that if the family is a praying family, the meeting should always begin with prayer.

One practical suggestion from a mother of 7 foster and adopted children was to hold the family meeting when it is dark outside. She had found that any family meeting held during the daytime resulted in repeated requests from the children to leave the meeting and play outside. An evening meeting usually meant everyone gave his or her full attention to the discussion or activity. This same parent said that starting the family meeting with a song usually sets a good tone for the whole meeting.

Another parent, a single mother of three children, said that it is important to realize that a given issue may not be completely solved during a family meeting. Sometimes one-on- one talks between parent and child are needed to bring closure or compromise to the issue.

A key point to remember is that, while family meetings are vital for family communication, a family’s goal should be to “live life together” as much as possible. This tip came from a mother of three children.

One important factor she and her husband have found for their family meetings is to keep variety in the meeting. The basic structure of the meeting may stay the same, but what you do should change from week to week. Often, they have had each child take a turn choosing the main activity for a family meeting.

So as for how a family meeting is done, well, it will vary according to your family’s age range, needs, interests, abilities, etc. But the main ingredients of unconditional love, a relaxed attitude, and prayer remain the same. Think through your family’s situation, and see how you can best conduct your family’s meetings.

EFFECTIVE FAMILY MEETING IN TODAY’S WORLD

After years of trial and error, research, and practice – I’ve found that the following best practices are incorporated in the best Family Meeting solutions.

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HIKE! THE KICK-OFF MEETING

The kick-off meeting is different from any other family meeting. In this initial meeting, your family will establish the who, what, when, where, why, and how of all future family

meetings. Of course, the kick-off is not just a time to seriously discuss the five Ws and H

of journalism. The kick-off is also meant to be a fun meeting in which every family

member participates.

FIRST AND FOREMOST: “WHY ARE WE DOING THIS?”

Your “why” is the foundational reason for having your family meetings. If you can’t give a clear reason why you are starting regular family meetings, then you should cancel the meetings. If canceling is not an option (and if it were, you wouldn’t be reading this), then you need to clearly define why you feel family meetings are important for your family. Reasons for family meetings will vary for each family.

A newly-married couple’s “why” might be to nurture their new relationship. For a family

with several different little league, dance, and band schedules, the “why” might be to have one night when the whole family can stop and enjoy each other. Families with teens might have a “why” of wanting to foster better communication between the generations. For the suddenly-single parent, the “why” could be to provide stability, facilitate healing, strengthen a new family bond, and show very visible love to the children.

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Whatever your “why” may be, involve the whole family in answering the question. This will make it so that the family meetings are not just “because Mom is in a ‘family togetherness’ phase.” Instead, the meetings will be because everyone in the family sees a need for coming together on a regular basis.

phase.” Instead, the meetings will be because everyone in the family sees a need for coming

WHO WILL COME?

At first glance, “who” is obvious—it’s a family meeting, so the family members are the ones who will attend. As you settle into the routine, however, little exceptions may begin to creep in. The needs of the office, science partner, or neighbor may begin to chisel away at the number of people at the meeting. At the kick-off meeting, establish that family meetings are meant for every family member. If a true schedule conflict develops (for example, a child’s sports team wins districts and is going on to state) re-schedule the meeting so the whole family can be present.

The reverse is also true. As children begin to really enjoy the meetings, they may want to invite friends over to participate in the family time. Depending on the situation, you might allow friends to come occasionally. Keep in mind that the presence of friends may hinder other family members from freely sharing their thoughts. Another drawback to visitors is that the “host” child tends to focus more on communicating with his friend than with his family. (To see this in action, have one supper with just your family, and then try a supper with your family plus one friend from school.)

COMPLETING THE FAMILY PROFILE DURING THE KICK-OFF MEETING

Filling in your family’s profile is probably going to be the most fun and time-consuming part of your kick-off meeting. You’ll need a good Family Meeting product that promotes Kick-Off meetings (such as My Family Meeting Binder, found at www.myfamilymeetings.com). Be sure to be near your profile sheet to record your decisions. What types of decisions will you be making? Well, to name a few

FAMILY TEAM NAME

Try to decide on something that sounds positive. “The Mud Turtles” may not be the best choice. (Unless, of course, everyone in the family really likes mud turtles.) As with every decision made at this meeting, compromise is key. If you are unable to decide on a name that everyone likes, either combine the titles into one team name or vote on a name.

FAMILY COLORS

This is a great way to draw any team together. You might even consider purchasing matching hats or t-shirts with the family colors to wear at the meetings or when you go out as a family. One couple bought bright green shirts for the entire family of nine people. The kids loved matching each other when they went on fun family activities, and the parents loved being able to quickly locate all seven children! Keep in mind that team colors can quickly become a personal issue, with everyone having a different idea. If you find you are getting nowhere in this decision, you may want to do what our family had to do. Table the decision and vote on it first thing at the next meeting.

MISSION STATEMENT AND FAMILY VISION

This will be easier to put into words if you have first answered the why of the family meetings. You may want to also expand it to include your faith. Put your mission statement in wording that includes the entire family unit as a whole. You can start with something like:

(Name) Family Mission Statement

Our mission as a family is to…

And we aim to do this by….

As you compose your family’s mission statement, ask family members what they feel is most important in life. Use those answers to develop your family’s mission and vision. After entering the statement on the profile sheet, copy and save one or two copies and place them in areas where all the family members will see it every day. The above family motto is framed and hung on the wall at the bottom of the stairs. Every time someone goes up or down the stairs, he or she is reminded of the family mission.

FAMILY MOTTO

Your mission is important and wonderful to look at every day, but a family motto is equally important. After all, what sticks in your mind more—an infomercial, or a five- word slogan from a fifteen-second commercial? The motto should sum up the family vision. For example, our family mission is summed up in four words: “Loving, Fun, Lively, and Creative.” Or, perhaps a series of short phrases could be used: “Love each other, be creative, have fun, and be kind to others.”

Another idea would be to write your motto in another language. This would be one way to build pride in your family’s heritage. The motto does not have to be limited to a phrase. It could be summed up with a song or short poem. Whatever it is, try to keep it short and catchy, since it will be the quickest way for family members to remember the family mission.

FAMILY PICTURE

You can put a Family Picture on many of the modern day Family Meeting products. If it’s a binder, you can insert it in the inner pocket of the binder.

FAMILY MASCOT OR LOGO

Like the family picture, this is not a vital part of the family meeting set-up process, but it is a nice way to increase team spirit. If you are a one-child family, consider asking the child to draw a logo before the next meeting.

RULES

Every sports game has them, every office uses them, and each In reflecting on what brought about the swift demise of their family meetings, one mother said, “[My daughter] turned it into a pity party every time.” She went on to say that if she had had a rule to send someone who did that to her room, the habit might have been broken, and the family meetings might have continued.

Tailor the Family Meeting rules and suggestions to your family’s needs. If interrupting is a major problem in the family, make a rule that a person should wait until someone is done talking (but no filibusters). Maybe interrupting is not a problem, but constant texting is. Have a rule that makes sure all cell phones, etc. are out of the meeting room and the answering machine is on. Review the rules chart on a yearly basis. If the habit of interrupting has been conquered, but a new problem of not giving eye contact to the person who is talking has started, consider removing the one rule and putting on the other. (Make it clear that just because the rule is not on the chart, does not mean it can be broken.) This yearly review will help keep the rules chart from becoming too lengthy.

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RULE #1 FAMILY MEETING RULES SHOULD HELP THE WHOLE FAMILY HAVE A GOOD TIME. THEY
RULE #1
FAMILY MEETING RULES SHOULD HELP THE
WHOLE FAMILY HAVE A GOOD TIME.
THEY SHOULD NOT BE TOO LENGTHY.

WHERE WILL WE MEET?

Ideally, you’ll want to meet in a place that is comfortable and has easy access to seating and perhaps a computer. You will want to have your Family Meeting product handy to choose meeting agendas, enter notes and assignments, and for fun activities related to family meetings.

WHEN WILL WE MEET?

Family meetings can be held with any amount of frequency. Weekly, bi-weekly, and monthly meetings are all possibilities, however, keep in mind that it is best to start with weekly meetings. It typically takes six to eight meetings held on a weekly basis for a family to settle into the routine. At the end of that time, families could decide whether or not to switch to bi-weekly meetings. Monthly meetings are better than no meeting at all, but as one counselor pointed out, you should not expect the family to ever settle into the family meeting routine.

HOW WILL WE REMEMBER WHAT WE DID AT THE PREVIOUS MEETING?

Well-known author and speaker Elisabeth Elliott once said, “You never really know what you are thinking until you write it down.” The same is true for a family meeting—you never really know what you have decided and accomplished until it is written. Choose someone to take the minutes of the meeting every week. If no one seems too excited about doing it, consider rotating the responsibility every one to two months.

If someone has a question or helpful comment in-between meetings, he or she can write the thought down and put it in a “Discussion Box.” You can purchase a discussion box from many Family Meeting product providers, or you can make your own.

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So, now that you’ve “Kicked Off” your family meeting, let’s look at what a “typical” family meeting would look like. Come to think of it, is there such a thing as a typical family meeting? Yes – they all typically start with a Family Meeting Agenda.

of it, is there such a thing as a typical family meeting? Yes – they all

THE FAMILY MEETING AGENDA

This is usually what people associate with a family meeting—a time when the family talks about a serious topic or makes a group decision. But who ever heard of a one-step line dance? That’s why this step is only a part of the meeting. While this step could be considered the “largest” part of the entire meeting, it is by no means just a time for the family leaders to lower the boom on the rest of the family.

The Family Meeting Agenda activity is a time to have an honest, serious discussion and learning time in as upbeat a manner as possible. For example, the family leaders might have recently realized that the family is in a financial crisis, and a budget needs to be made. Rather than just say, “No, we can’t afford that,” the next time a child asks for an item, the parents can use the Family Meeting time to walk the whole family through the steps of planning a family budget. It need not always be about a serious matter. The topic could be on planning the next family vacation. This step would be one way the whole family could discuss interests, desires, and work out a plan for a vacation.

3D’S OF THE FAMILY MEETING AGENDA

The main thing to remember, no matter what you talk about during this step, many agendas are made up of three main components, which I term as the 3D’s: Detailed Information, Discussion, and Decision. Detailed Information would usually be given at the beginning of the meeting. It is basically the introduction of the topic and any additional facts the family leaders wish to give. After the Detailed Information comes the Discussion time. Often questions to aid in the Discussion are given in the agenda. Once the information has been heard and the discussion has taken place, it is time for the Decision part of the Family Meeting.

Depending on the topic, the decision could involve an action for a set period of time (“Okay, we are all agree to save receipts from every purchase during the next month.”); or for a future emergency (“So if a fire happens in our house, we will all get out of the house and meet in Mrs. Johansson’s front yard across the street.”); or for gathering further details in order to make an informed decision (“Let’s review the list: Jack will research airline ticket prices to Arizona, Jasmine will check into camping at or near the Grand Canyon, Janine will look into the possibility of white water rafting, and I will estimate the cost of driving to Arizona. We can compare notes and make a decision at the next meeting.”). Any decisions made should be written down in the meeting notes so the family can review it at the next meeting.

ACTION ITEMS

These may be used differently depending on your family and the previous week’s meeting. For example, if you discussed vacation plans the week before, this would be where each person would report on his or her research. You can also use this time to schedule other actions for individuals (“Derek, could you please install the new word processing program this week”) or for the whole family (“This Saturday is the last

possible day for us to plant the garden. Let’s plan on a family work day.”) Modern Family Meeting programs (such as My Family Meeting Binder, www.myfamilymeetings.com) make it possible to record all Family action items and follow-ups.

OPEN FLOOR

What happens during Open Floor discussions also will differ from family to family. Open Floor discussions should be exactly what the name says it is—an open floor for family members to discuss anything (within the meeting rules established in the Kick-Off Meeting). If one or two people tend to dominate the Open Floor time, considering using a prop, such as a Golden Microphone to gently keep the person in a given timeframe.

More often than not, family members will probably have no trouble whatsoever finding something to talk about during this time. However, if you have a night where no one can think of something to say, do not skip the step. The Open Floor is a time for the family to work on communication skills. Many Family Meeting solutions (like My Family Meeting Binder) offers a list of starter topics and questions that you can use. Once a conversation is begun, family members may remember things they wanted to discuss, and the Open Floor can develop from there.

CLOSING THE MEETING

Why do we like to end a meal with something sweet? Why do plays and circuses finish with a grand finale? Why do many people end their day with a soothing bath, cup of tea, or peaceful music? It’s because the human race loves to leave any experience on a pleasant note. This should also be true of your meeting. Any serious topic, action assigned, or perplexing question asked should be put behind you as you end the meeting with a sweet taste in your mouth.

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I recommend closing the Family Meeting with one or both of the following: fun and team-building exercise. It may be a quick treasure hunt, a board game, rented movie, or a family trip to the local ice cream stand. It should, like the meeting, be something the whole family will enjoy.

or a family trip to the local ice cream stand. It should, like the meeting, be

CONCLUSION – DISCOVERING YOUR DIAMONDS

The story is told (many say it is true) of a farmer who was heard from a traveler of the beauty and wonder of diamonds. Although he never seen a diamond in his life, the farmer began to covet diamonds. He was no longer content with his farm, which had always produced more than enough for his needs. Instead, all he could think of was how much more wealth he could gain if he were to discover his own diamond mine.

When he could no longer stand the constant longing for wealth, he sold his farm and began to travel around the world in search of diamonds. His search was not without results. However, instead of finding gems, he found loneliness, sickness, loss of his family, and despair. One night, the farmer-turned-miner threw away his last great possession—his life.

In the meantime, the man who had bought the farmer’s field began to work very diligently on the land. One day, he noticed a strange stone in the stream that ran through the property. Yes, the stone was a diamond. As more stones were dug up and examined, it was discovered that the farmer’s land contained literal acres of diamonds. It is said this is the story of the discovery of the famed India Golconda diamonds; source of the Hope Diamond, Koh-i-Noor Diamond, Orlov Diamond, Sanc Diamond, and a rare 186-carat blue diamond.

What is the message of the story? It is meant to encourage you as your family discovers the “diamonds” in the relationships of your immediate family.

Remember, when first discovered, a diamond is always encased in a rough exterior, but a wise miner will see the future beauty. In the same way, you may be confronted with the rough edges of attitudes and schedule conflicts, but don’t give up! Stay committed to transforming the relationship from a “strange-looking rock” to a “gemstone.”

As a diamond goes through the process of cutting, careful study of each individual stone must be made before the hammer hits the chisel. One cut made at a slightly wrong angle will result in a ruined and shattered diamond. The process of refining family relationships should be given equal thought and care. Remember, each person is spectacularly unique, and each person will relate differently to every family member.

The majority of diamonds are flawed. In fact, it is extremely rare to find a diamond that is completely perfect. Perfect people cannot be found anywhere. They simply don’t exist. The “flaws” of your family members may be obvious to you, but remember that your flaws are equally obvious and irritating to them. Be sure to give “space” for others to be who they are. Bathe every meeting with unconditional love—love that accepts a person even when his attitude or actions are unacceptable.

HAVE FUN!

In the course of all your diamond cutting and polishing, don’t forget to enjoy your diamonds! Laughter and fun go a long way to drawing a group together. As Mary Poppins said in the movie, “In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun.” Using “fun,” she was able to get Jane and Michael to enjoy the job of cleaning their room. You can help everyone enjoy and look forward to the meetings as you use the same technique.

To sum it all up, look at the diamonds you have in your family, let the person develop according to his or her bent, make love obvious in each meeting, and balance the serious with a hefty dose of fun. Or, to put it in the form of a motto:

LOOK, LIVE, LOVE, LAUGH

For information about the National Family Meeting Association, visit www.familymeetings.org

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