Benefits of Family Councils

grumpy boyFamily Councils, either formal or informal, are a great way to keep communication in families open. They are also a good way to solve problems. The following situation could have turned into a crisis, but because this mom and her kids had been talking to each other often and in an open and honest way, the problem was solved relatively easily.

Paul and his twin sister, Susan, loved to play video games. Mario Kart was their favorite. Mom helped them set up their system so they could race on line with their cousins who lived in a distant city.

Mom, a single parent, working full time and going to school at night, thought it was a way for the children to connect with family and keep them busy when she had a test to study for.

Susan enjoyed playing with her cousins some of the time, but she also liked to read and spend time with her friends after school. Paul, on the other hand, couldn’t leave the game alone. He took his mom’s credit card and downloaded several new games his buddies told him about. His playing time increased, his grades dropped, and he became irritable.

At the end of the month, Mom opened the credit card bill to pay it. When she saw the game charges, she was angry. She knew if she talked to Paul right then, they would have a fight, and she didn’t want that. She decided to check to her social work teacher that night and get his suggestions.

His answer surprised her. “You have to decide the principle you want to teach,” he said. “Also, make a list of the possible methods you could use and the message they would send your son.”

Mom decided she wanted to teach him to be responsible for his actions.

She made a list of the possible ways to teach this and the message each would send.

*If I give an angry lecture, he will think he is flawed and worthless. He will feel resentful.
*If I give a calm lecture, he will still see himself as flawed. He will feel guilty.
*If I just give consequences, I will teach him that I am in charge.
*If we just have a discussion, he will know he can get away with anything he wants.
*If we have a solution-focused discussion, he will feel responsible for his actions and know he can correct his mistakes.

Mom and the children sat down together to solve the problem. (Mom included Susan in the discussion because the twins were so close. They talked about everything with each other anyway.)

First, Mom showed them the bill on line. They were very interested because they had never seen a credit card bill.

Next Mom signed into the school web site and pulled up Paul’s grades.

Paul hung his head.

Mom put her hand on his shoulder. “We have a couple of problems here. How are we going to solve them?”

The three of them brainstormed ideas and negotiated a solution that would work for them.

*Both children had to have their homework done before any kind of play.

*Paul had a list of jobs to do to pay for the games he charged.

* Furthermore, if Paul showed he could play the games responsibly, he could continue to work to earn enough money to buy (or rent) games approved by his mother.

Learn more about this family council situation and many other in Family Talk: How to Organize Family Meetings to Solve Problems and Strengthen Relationships

Because this family was able to talk about their problem and find a solution, everyone felt better. Strength in children is built by helping them solve their difficulties and learn a better way. Next time Paul will make a better choice because a check and balance system is in place. Good communication will foster his growth.

Some of the messages family councils give children are:
*I am important.
* I am accountable.
*I can be responsible for myself.
*I can handle tough situations.
*I can negotiate.
*I am a problem-solver.
*I am successful.

Begin holding family councils. Share daily problems with your children and ask them to help you solve each situation. The skills kids will learn from doing this will benefit them the rest of their lives in their daily living and whatever their chosen vocation.

Christie MonsonChristy Monson, M.A., (retired) established a successful counseling practice in Las Vegas, Nevada, as a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist.  www.christymonson.com

Photo credit © Smellme

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Raising Children with Pets

cute puppy

Raising children with pets is beneficial to your child as it teaches responsibility in caring for the needs of a living creature. Having pets also plays a part in teaching children about compassion, empathy, and kindness while simultaneously teaching them to respect animals and nature. Whether you are an expectant parent or a parent of small children you will be happy to know that raising children and pets together is indeed possible.

There are certain precautions, however, that must be taken to assure baby and pet safely coexist. Here are some tips that new parents can follow to assure harmony in the home.

1. Always supervise baby when a dog is in the house.

Try to keep your baby at a higher level than your dog as many dogs see a baby on the floor as a littermate to roughhouse or as prey due to the baby’s small size. For this reason, a parent should never lay a baby on the floor near a dog—large breed dogs especially– and should absolutely never exit the room leaving baby unattended. Using doggy gates or shutting the dog in a separate room while baby is playing on the floor, along with constant adult supervision, is vital to preventing tragedies.

2. Keep pet feeding area away from disturbance, such as in a laundry room, mud room, or basement.

An animal is territorial by nature, especially with food. This can cause even the most gentle dog or cat to strike out if disturbed while eating; in fact, it is the number one cause for dog bites. To prevent tragedies teach your child to never touch but to leave the pet alone while it eats. Keeping the feeding area in a quiet, remote place helps prevent problems.

3. Teach your child to never run up to or pet a strange dog.

Babies and small children are naturally drawn to animals but a strange dog may not react well to your child’s sudden approach and could bite out of fear. Teach your child to never run up to a strange dog but accompany them to ask the owner for permission to pet the dog. Let the dog sniff your hand before petting it and then show your child how to gently pet the dog on the back, never in the face or on the head.

4. Teach your child how to properly handle an animal.

Your small child may see your pet as a stuffed animal and may not realize that his or her play is too rough. Don’t allow your child to carry a cat or a dog if they are unable to do so safely. Show your child how to pet the animal gently and never allow your child to pull ears or tail, or hit the animal. Especially, never let them ride on, sit or lay on the pet.

Taking simple precautions from the very beginning allows for children and pets to live and grow together in a safe environment. Raising children with pets is a wonderful opportunity to teach, nurture and delight a child–and they’ll have fond memories to last a lifetime.

LaDeneLaDene Mayville is the author of
Hallie the Harvester Ant
She is a freelance writer and has three grown sons.

Photo credit © Shawn Low

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Ten Ways to Save on Back to School Shopping

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