The summer of 2013 is quickly coming to an end, and a new school year is about to begin. New beginnings offer a wonderful opportunity for families to establish and implement new tools to support good family habits and academic success.
If you intend to make changes to last year’s way of managing the family’s daily routine or behavior expectations, a good strategy is to hold a family meeting. You can open the meeting by pointing out one or more of the challenges that were faced during the previous year and ask for input. For example, you could say, “I noticed that last year we were always scrambling to get out the door on time, and everyone seemed grumpy in the car on the way to school. I wonder what we could do so that we don’t have to experience that daily unhappiness this year.”
You’ll be surprised to discover that even very young children can actively participate in problem-solving and offering ideas for a solution. Though the adults are ultimately guiding children toward an appropriate solution, when a solution is determined, children tend to feel invested in the new behavior because they took part in developing the change. For instance, deciding that getting up a half an hour earlier during school mornings might be the arrived at solution. When resistance is offered later on, children can be reminded the “waking up earlier” rule was agreed upon by every member of the family.
During the family meeting, when changes have been agreed upon by every family member, the new family policy or rule should be written down and reviewed often. Young children, in particular, have not yet developed the memory capacity we take of granted as adults, and a rule they may remember one day, might be forgotten the next day. Post the amended routine changes where they are visible to everyone in the family, and invite children to embellish the borders of the document by drawing artwork around it. This will further invest the child in the new routine. As a family, don’t forget to celebrate the successful transition to the new rule or routine.
When my children were growing up, we held family meetings, and they were usually awful, with someone inevitably stomping out of the room in a dramatic demonstration of theatrical talent. At these meetings, though, it was more about two parents dictating new rules to children instead of collaborating solutions as a family. Live and learn.
Katherine Generaux serves as the center’s Community Inclusion Specialist. In that position she has been effective in modeling appropriate interactions with young children with special needs. Her ongoing presence in the classrooms modeling best practices for infants and toddler is resulting in additional experience while making a positive difference in early childhood programming. She is very aware of what is developmentally appropriate and engaging with the children. Her birth through kindergarten degree and experience are evident in her service to children and families.