5 Ways to Ruin the Effectiveness of Family Meetings
(Of course, if you prefer the sort of meeting that is characterized by purposeful discussion, and makes a positive difference in day-to-day family life—just do the opposite of everything suggested here.)
- Call family meetings “as needed.” This is easiest when you are angry or frustrated—and the more family members who also happen to be feeling that way, the better. With anyone who isn’t in such a mood already, you can give them a good push just by demanding they drop whatever they’re doing and join everyone else for “a good talk” about whatever happens to be annoying you. After you’ve achieved a half hour of hot verbal exchanges and/or empty promises, don’t ruin the session’s ineffectiveness by formally scheduling any follow-up meetings.
- Dispense with all order. If you slip and let a family meeting actually get scheduled in advance, you can still achieve effective ineffectiveness by stopping all planning right there. Don’t bother with such tedious technicalities as agendas and minutes, chairpersons and secretaries, voting and adjournment; be totally democratic and let everyone speak at will. Everyone will leave convinced no one really listens, but you can take pride in your spontaneity and free speech.
- Play the heavy-handed authority. If you aren’t the type for spontaneity, you can achieve almost as much ineffectiveness by being super-organized—provided you do all the organizing and let no one else forget who’s head of the household. You choose the time for the meeting and make it clear everyone is to show up then, regardless of any other plans they might have had. During the meeting itself, insist on your right not only to approve final decisions, but to veto even the most casual remarks if they don’t suit you. You don’t want anybody getting the idea that anyone but you has any real intelligence, or that the meeting has any real purpose beyond teaching everyone else to do everything the best way (i. e., your way).
- Have a family scapegoat. This works best in families with 2–4 dependent children. Label one particular kid as the “bad one” whose attitude and escapades are the source of every family problem, and who has to be “straightened out.” During the meeting, make sure every topic of discussion touches on something the “scapegoat” always does wrong. The other kids will be delighted to help out; the more you focus on the scapegoat, the more they will be free to do as they please. And with only one problem person in the family, you’ll never have to face the uncomfortable possibility of having to change anything about yourself.
- Go away mad. If, despite all the above, you get through a family meeting without it devolving into chaos, you can sabotage long-term effectiveness by remembering things that didn’t satisfy you completely. Let that one interruption be proof no one respects you. Pout about the suggestion no one but you had the sense to vote for. Tell yourself how awful it is that anyone was so dense as to disagree with you. Keep this up, and it will poison your every interaction within the family until the next meeting—and will help keep that and all future meetings uniformly ineffective.