Q Dear Miss Abigail:
What does one do to stop their children from revealing household secrets?
A Dear Lori:
Whew! I think it’s time to have a little family conference to let those kids know how you really feel about their blabbering mouths, and to let them air their “issues.” Henry and Elizabeth Swift explain how to do it in their informative book Running a Happy Family.
Let me set this up for you: In this case, the Becker house has one TV, and six family members to share it. Instead of fighting over the TV, as their neighbors the Millers do, dear old dad has worked out a wonderful system for planning the weekly viewing schedule. They discuss, listen, vote, and go away happy. It’s all about communication, baby, no matter what the issue.
Now if you’ll excuse me, my crazy mutt Frieda and I need to have a conference about her desire to balance on the back of the couch.
1960: Holding Conferences
1. Hold a Conference to Plan Family Activities and Policies. Both regularly scheduled meetings and those called for a special purpose can be a real help to better understanding within the family. Such meetings make it possible for everyone to get a fair hearing, and to air their views and grievances. They also provide an opportunity to settle family questions in a friendly way, as George Becker learned when he brought home what he had learned at work about conference leadership. Through participation in family meetings you can teach, train, and develop your children. They can learn from you how to disagree without losing friends or holding grudges, and, best of all, can learn not to ‘go away mad.’
2. Plan and Prepare in Advance for All Conferences. Be sure of the main purpose of the meeting, and that all who will be present know just what it is. If you are in charge, plan a convenient time and place and let everyone know about it ahead of time. Prepare the agenda, also in advance if possible. As leader, have some kind of guide in the form of mental or written notes, and see that any necessary equipment is available. The fact that the Becker family was well prepared, with comfortable surroundings and the necessary television guide and calendar, contributed to the success of their conference.
3. Encourage Active Participation From Everyone Who Is Present. Use leading questions to encourage participation, and be sure to give genuine consideration to all opinions. Giving the children their chance to speak is of no value unless they feel that some attention is being paid to what they have to say. After a thorough discussion, the leader should guide the group to evaluate the results. A vote may be the most appropriate means to insure that all take part in the decision as well as the discussion. Participation by all leads to better understanding and sounder decisions, and children learn more about making their own decisions if they have a chance to contribute in such a way at home. All members of George Becker’s family took part in the television conference except the baby ~ when she learns to talk she will be urged to participate too!
4. Listen Actively and Speak Clearly, as Leader or Participant. Children must learn to keep alert and to listen to the opinions of others whether they want to or not. They can also learn from your examples as a means of strengthening their case and making their points understandable. Through holding regular family conferences as the Becker family does, this valuable training is easily absorbed; whereas no one listened to anyone else during the free-for-all over television in the Miller household which resulted in antagonism and hurt feelings.
Source: Swift, Henry and Elizabeth. Running a Happy Family. New York: The John Day Company, 1960.
~ pp. 126-27 ~