Does this scenario sound familiar? It is time for the family to go to a friend's house for dinner. The husband is ready and is in the living room shouting to his wife, "Hurry up! We are going to be late." Where is his wife? She is in the children's bedroom getting the children ready by giving them a bath, dressing them, and combing their hair while all he had to do is to get himself ready. All the chores belong to mom!!!
Now, this is not how all men act, but in many homes the wife has to be responsible for coming up with a chore list and enforcing it. Often, when the husband suggests something fun to do, she has to be "the heavy" and say, "Not until all the chores are done." She looks like the one who doesn't want the family to have any fun. If this is not troublesome enough, the statement that gets to her is when the husband sounds like he is really helping by saying, "Come on, kids, let's help mom with the chores." The message to the children is that the chores and all the house tasks are mother's.
If everyone does his or her chores,
what fun thing would each of you like for us to do as a family?
Family meetings can be a wonderful tool to spread the family chores or tasks to everyone in the home. At the family meeting the question is asked, "What does it take to run this family for a week?' Then each family member shares one task that needs to be done. The tasks can include loading and unloading the dishwasher, setting the table, preparing the dinner, etc. As each task is verbalized, it is written down followed by the next step, which is to ask who is going to do what and when.
So, the list is the "family list" rather than "mom's list." The next task is for each family member to pick their chores for the week. Then the family sets a deadline for the task to be completed. As a motivation piece, the question is asked, "If everyone does his or her chores, what fun thing would each of you like for us to do as a family?" A list is made, and after the chores are done the parents pick one of the fun things to implement. This feels more positive than making a penalty if the chores are not done.
Family meeting is a wonderful tool for bringing unity and structure to a blended family as well as to the traditional family. Since there are several models for family meetings, you may want to research some of the models to find one that fits your family.
Next month, we will continue with other family meetings activities as well as how to set up the family meetings.
Dr. William E. Austin is a licensed psychotherapist and holds a Doctor of Divinity degree. He is a therapist with Tidewater Pastoral Counseling Services . He is well known for his warmth and sense of humor. His book, Creating Our Safe Place - Articles on Healthy Relationships, can be purchased through www.amazon.com.
Tidewater Pastoral Counseling: 623-2700
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