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Putting the family council to work

Posted May 4

Flatulence was the topic of the night at our most recent family council.

Apparently the quality and quantity of said flatulence was bothering one member of our family enough that it became the big discussion of the night. By the end of our council, we had developed a new family motto of sorts: Farts are not weapons.

This is top-notch parenting right here, people. And really, it's just good advice for everyone.

The no-farts-as-weapons conversation undoubtedly ranks as the most hilarious family council we’ve ever had, and it’s an awesome example of why I love gathering my family to counsel together. Getting together to debrief with my children on what’s important in their lives gives me insight into their days, their worries and the issues that may be developing under the radar.

In the most recent general conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles encouraged family councils, saying, “Finally, please remember that a family council held regularly will help us spot family problems early and nip them in the bud; councils will give each family member a feeling of worth and importance; and most of all they will assist us to be more happy in our precious relationships, within the walls of our homes."

In our family, we try to meet each week after dinner one night (usually Sunday) to discuss three topics:

  1. Major accomplishments for the past week.
  2. Upcoming events we should all know about.
  3. Any issues of concern.
The gas discussion cropped up under item No. 3, which is usually where the most interesting conversations take place. And while that discussion was more lighthearted, I am sometimes surprised at what is weighing on my children.

In a more serious conversation, for example, my oldest daughter said she wanted my husband and I to stop arguing in front of the kids. In my mind, we were simply having a pretty civilized disagreement that afternoon while the kids played. To my daughter, however, it felt like fighting and made her sad and uncomfortable.

I love that she felt safe enough in our family council to bring this up so I could be more aware of the tone in our home

Over the years, we have fine-tuned our family council system.

First, councils are not forums for debate. Councils are for listening. Kids and parents should be able to say how they feel without facing a rebuttal. This is not a time for accusations or defense, just a time to share real emotions.

Second, write it down. I have kept a family council journal, which shows the things we were excited about at different times in our lives, as well as the commitments we made to each other to do better. Yes, that means “Farts are not weapons” is in there, recorded for our great-great-grandchildren to read and revere us as the amazing parents we clearly are.

Third, be consistent. Kids always feel safer with regularity. They may not chime in with their serious thoughts the first few times you hold a family council, but if you do it routinely, they will feel comfortable sharing and they will expect respect in return.

And finally, the most important thing I’ve learned about family council is that it truly needs to be a council of equals. While my husband and I usually guide the discussion, we are not in charge of it. Everyone has a voice and everyone is entitled to their emotions.

More than anything we do as a family, this few minutes each week of counseling together bonds us as a family, a unit of cooperation and love that wants the best for each other and is willing to work to achieve it.

How do you get the most out of your family councils?

Erin Stewart is a regular blogger for Deseret News. From stretch marks to the latest news for moms, she discusses it all while her 9-year-old and 5-year-old daughters dive-bomb off the couch behind her.

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