Like many parents, the Starrs were trapped between the smooth-running household they aspired to have and the exhausting, earsplitting one they actually lived in. “I was trying the whole ‘love them and everything will work out’ philosophy,” she said, “but it wasn’t working. ‘For the love of God,’ I finally said, ‘I can’t take this any more.’ ”
What the Starrs did next was surprising. Instead of consulting relatives or friends, they looked to David’s workplace. They turned to a cutting-edge program called agile development that has rapidly spread from manufacturers in Japan to startups in Silicon Valley. It’s a system of group dynamics in which workers are organized into small teams, hold daily progress sessions and weekly reviews.
As David explained, “Having weekly family meetings increased communication, improved productivity, lowered stress and made everyone much happier to be part of the family team.”
When my wife and I adopted the agile blueprint in our own home, weekly family meetings with our then-5-year-old twin daughters quickly became the centerpiece around which we organized our family. The meetings transformed our relationships with our kids—and each other. And they took up less than 20 minutes a week.
What kind of disorganization and anomie are people living in these days that having a weekly family meeting seems like some kind of brilliant breakthrough? (And, wow: I guess the author of this article should get Dad of the Year for spending 20 minutes a week talking to his twins.) Don’t miss the part in the article when the author discusses writing a “family mission statement.” Hint: these mission statements are just as full of business-speak flatulence as most business mission statements.
I don’t mean to brag, but we have a nightly family meeting we like to call dinner. It may not seem as efficient as one 20-minute weekly meeting, but I think that it’s efficient in that we can eat a meal and talk to each other, review the events of the day, and go over the stuff that needs to happen that night and/or the next day. As in most business meetings, we consider it bad form to answer a telephone call or respond to a text or an email during this meeting (unless the resident physician is on call, in which case the rules for him are relaxed.)
We’re also very old-fashioned in that we have no video games and no TV on the main floor of the house, so if we’re not reading, playing piano, or using computers, we have to interact with one another outside of dinner. I can’t imagine the multi-media chaos otherwise.
I wonder if the concept of a “family meeting” is more revolutionary in homes in which there’s only one adult in the paid workforce, whereas two-income families have to be organized so that everyone can get out the door the next day. I can imagine that a number of families with one adult staying at home with children imagine that their lives will be better organized because of the labors of that one adult, but I think what happens is that the stay-at-home adult may end up not functioning as a manager of the household but rather as an employee of the children–taking on tasks that the children could do for themselves, serving as the chauffeur, etc.
There is of course one way in which families can’t be run like businesses: there’s no such thing as an at-will daughter, son, or partner. We can’t easily fire the people who aren’t working out.