Self-Motivation
David Goggins
Former Navy Seal
Career Development
Bryan Cranston
Actor
Critical Thinking
Liv Boeree
International Poker Champion
Emotional Intelligence
Amaryllis Fox
Former CIA Clandestine Operative
Management
Chris Hadfield
Retired Canadian Astronaut & Author
Learn
from the world's big
thinkers
Start Learning

Weekly Meetings for High-Functioning Families, with Bruce Feiler

Happy families combat the stress of the modern age by always adapting. The system out of which this adaptation occurs is the weekly family meeting.

Bruce Feiler: Number one problem in families — our lives are chaotic. Ellen Galinsky of the Families and Work Institute asked a thousand children, “If you could be granted one wish about your parents, what would it be?” The parents predicted the kids would say spend more time with them, but they were wrong. The kids said they wanted their parents to be less tired and less stressed.

So how do we become less stressed? The number one thing that I found in looking at high-functioning families is that they adapt all the time. I thought as a parent, "I’ll make a few rules, I’ll stick to them; it’ll be easy." Turns out it doesn’t work that way. You need a system to adapt, but you can’t adapt all the time. If you’re fighting over the broccoli on Tuesday or trying to get the mittens on to go to school on Thursday morning, you don’t want to have the conflict in that actual moment.

And so we have adapted the system that many families are doing and it’s called a family meeting. And we meet 15-20 minutes every Sunday night. And we ask three questions taken from agile development, which is a system that began in the software world that has now taken over management. And the three questions are what worked well in our family this week, what didn’t work well, and what will we agree to work on in the week ahead.

And here’s the key to the whole thing. We actually allow our kids, with adult supervision, help pick their own rewards and punishments. It sounds crazy. Anybody who’s not done it thinks the kids will be incredibly lax. Anybody who’s done it knows the kids are very, very strict. In fact, our girls are like little Stalins. We constantly have to dial them back. So let’s take this week. We’re working on overreacting — a common problem that parents have. We say to our kids, “Okay, get me a reward.” And one says, “If we get five minutes of overreacting this week. If we get under that we get a sleepover. If we’re over that we have to do one pushup for every minute over five minutes.”

First of all, I would never have picked that reward and punishment. Secondly, it’s actually that thinking that I’m really after here. And then my other daughter says, “Is that one five-minute overreaction or 10 30-second overreactions?” I loved that. I could never have created that sense of involvement. The latest research is showing the kids who plan their own schedules, set their own work actually evaluate their own progress, are actually building up their brains. Their cortexes are getting bigger and they are taking more control over their lives. And this is really the point. Nothing is top-down in the world anymore — not business, not sports, not government, not religion.

You can’t just get your kids to 16 and say, “Go off and make decisions and enter your lives.” You need to give them the practice that they need in order to become independent. So here’s a way, with parental involvement mind you, we’re still setting the rules here — let your kids practice. So the key point is here to reduce stress, actually offload some of the responsibility to children. Empower them wherever possible and you’ll help prepare them to be the adults you want them to be.

So a couple questions about the family meeting. Things that might go wrong. Question number one — how old do kids need to be? Okay. Maybe a two or three year old is not old enough, but we have found by four or five kids are actually ready to engage in this conversation. And one tip to get them to the table is we put the allowance at the end to make sure that they want to stick around.

On the other end of the scale, how old can kids be and still have these meetings? How do you get a 12 or 13 or 15 year old to come to the table for one of these meetings? Sooner or later your teenager is gonna come to you and say, “Can I go to Johnny’s house on Friday night? I know I’m not supposed to.” Or, “Can I extend my curfew.”

And what you say is we’re not gonna have this conversation now when I’m flossing my teeth or where I’m trying to get breakfast on the table. We’re gonna have a time — a safe zone every week. So the point is the message to kids is there’s this safe zone where you’re gonna get to ask the questions. And the message to parents is when you want to be having that fight or when it’s so chaotic there’s not time you simply have got to get to the doctors or you simply have to get dinner on the table so that you can run off to your meeting after work. You say, “I don’t need to have every crisis in every moment.” There is a safe time at the end of the week where everyone’s gonna get to air their ideas. You’re gonna be sitting at the same level. You’re gonna be — your voices are gonna be low and you’re gonna know this is the one time of week that we’re gonna be mindful about what it means to be part of our family.

The number one problem in families, says Bruce Feiler, is that our lives are chaotic. The digital age has us overworked and overstressed. Predictably, the family suffers unless you learn how to adapt to shifting dynamics. What Feiler found when researching his latest book, "The Secrets of Happy Families," was that strong familial units made sure to meet on a weekly basis to check the family pulse. In this video, Feiler walks through strategies you can employ in your own family to promote an atmosphere of adaptation.

LIVE EVENT | Radical innovation: Unlocking the future of human invention

Innovation in manufacturing has crawled since the 1950s. That's about to speed up.

Big Think LIVE

Add event to calendar

AppleGoogleOffice 365OutlookOutlook.comYahoo


Keep reading Show less

Navy SEALs: How to build a warrior mindset

SEAL training is the ultimate test of both mental and physical strength.

Videos
  • The fact that U.S. Navy SEALs endure very rigorous training before entering the field is common knowledge, but just what happens at those facilities is less often discussed. In this video, former SEALs Brent Gleeson, David Goggins, and Eric Greitens (as well as authors Jesse Itzler and Jamie Wheal) talk about how the 18-month program is designed to build elite, disciplined operatives with immense mental toughness and resilience.
  • Wheal dives into the cutting-edge technology and science that the navy uses to prepare these individuals. Itzler shares his experience meeting and briefly living with Goggins (who was also an Army Ranger) and the things he learned about pushing past perceived limits.
  • Goggins dives into why you should leave your comfort zone, introduces the 40 percent rule, and explains why the biggest battle we all face is the one in our own minds. "Usually whatever's in front of you isn't as big as you make it out to be," says the SEAL turned motivational speaker. "We start to make these very small things enormous because we allow our minds to take control and go away from us. We have to regain control of our mind."
Keep reading Show less

New guidelines redefine 'obesity' to curb fat shaming

Is focusing solely on body mass index the best way for doctor to frame obesity?

Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images
Surprising Science
  • New guidelines published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal argue that obesity should be defined as a condition that involves high body mass index along with a corresponding physical or mental health condition.
  • The guidelines note that classifying obesity by body mass index alone may lead to fat shaming or non-optimal treatments.
  • The guidelines offer five steps for reframing the way doctors treat obesity.
Keep reading Show less

NASA's idea for making food from thin air just became a reality — it could feed billions

Here's why you might eat greenhouse gases in the future.

Jordane Mathieu on Unsplash
Technology & Innovation
  • The company's protein powder, "Solein," is similar in form and taste to wheat flour.
  • Based on a concept developed by NASA, the product has wide potential as a carbon-neutral source of protein.
  • The man-made "meat" industry just got even more interesting.
Keep reading Show less

How COVID-19 will change the way we design our homes

Pandemic-inspired housing innovation will collide with techno-acceleration.

Maja Hitij/Getty Images
Coronavirus
COVID-19 is confounding planning for basic human needs, including shelter.
Keep reading Show less
Quantcast