By: Nicholeen Peck & Heidi Schultz (of www.franticallysimple.com )
Dont' let this title fool you. Heidi found out principles which work for all size families! She just happens to only have one child.
First of all, thank you so much for sharing your vision. I am just beginning
to learn how to teach self government in my home, but already I am feeling
like we are making really good progress. So again, thank you.
I wonder if you can help me with something. My family is unique (but aren't
My husband and I have one child, a ten year old daughter. I am having a hard time getting the vision
of what a family meeting would look like with only one child…Maybe this:
"I'd like to discuss this issue that may have come up in our home. I'm not
saying who the perpetrator may have been…"
"Okay, let's take a vote. How many in favor? Scoot over Hannah, I can't see
any of the hands raised behind you." 🙂
Some of these things don't seem to lend themselves so well to our very small
government. Have you any experience with other families like mine? Can you
help me to see how to implement these very good principles in a way that will
work with our circumstances?”
Each family is so different. I can understand why you would have a concern about using a family meeting format with an only child. It probably seems like it wouldn't be too fair to the child, and that the meeting would end up turning out like a two on one lecture.
However, even though I have a larger family than you, I have watched with great interest as other families, who have one child and two parents have implemented all of the Teaching Self-Government meetings and skills into their homes.
It may seem like a big culture shift for your family, because it is for any family, but I can promise you Teaching Self-Government will open communication and increase understanding like you never knew was possible.”
“I want to thank you for sharing your vision and knowledge. My family was
doing okay before learning about Family Government, but things seem to be
going so much more smoothly now.
I am excited to learn more. I will say that family meetings are kind of funny with just the three of
"I've noticed that someone keeps leaving cereal boxes on the counter (but
I'm not saying who"). I wasn't sure it could work in a small family, but
so far it really does. We all just crack up since it's obvious who the
"someone" is. 🙂
Heidi's family is using the “not pointing fingers” language I talk about in my book, Parening A House United: Changing Children's Hearts and Behaviors by Teaching Self-Government.
One of our family meeting rules is that we don't ever point fingers at a person. This has been proven to cause family fights and destroy the loving atmosphere of a family meeting.
I'm sure it is strange to speak that way when there is only one person who could be creating the problem. But the principle still works. Even if there were only two people in the home, saying, “I have noticed we have a problem with not taking our dishes over after dinner. What can we decide upon to solve this family problem?” is still so much more trusting and loving than saying, “Megan, you have a real problem with not taking over your dishes after dinner. What consequence should we put in place to make you stop the bad behavior?”
If you will notice, the feeling is so much different between these two examples.
The first example shows that you trust in the goodness of the other person, the second example is just a home manager trying to create a fix to someone else's problem. One view is loving and unified and one isn't.
“Here is one thing I have noticed about having an only child. I feel that in
a family with multiple children, the children (rightly so) identify with the
other children. There is a natural separation between kids and adults.
In our home, our daughter identifies herself with the adults. That natural
separation is hazy. Therefore, when there are decisions to be made, she has
felt that her voice should carry equal weight. It has been frustrating for
her to be overruled, because she has not understood the hierarchy of our
government, so to speak.
Teaching self government has helped us all. She is learning that Mom and
Dad are the authority, but her voice is important and will be heard when she
uses it correctly (for example, learning to disagree appropriately). It has
In our family meetings, we all discuss what we will do for fun that week or
what issues need to be resolved. There again she has a voice. She is able
to work in committee with us, bringing her ideas forward and giving her
assent when needed.
Take this for example: we were discussing the issue of dishes and food
items, like cereal boxes, being left out after "someone" made a snack. I
expressed why that was a problem for me (it causes me extra work). My
husband asked for suggestions on positive or negative consequences.
Our daughter suggested that we go out for ice-cream if it didn't happen all
day. We talked about the practicality, health impact, and expense
surrounding daily trips to the ice-cream parlor, but did not say no to her
idea. During the course of our discussion, she changed her idea to a weekly
trip if there were no more than two infractions.
I liked her idea, but suggested a negative consequence to go along with it,
to act as a stronger deterrent: whoever leaves out their dishes/mess has to
do all of the next meal's dishes without help. We all agreed that that was
fair and that we would adopt both consequences.
There was only one infraction all week. Our daughter grinned sheepishly
when I pointed out her dish and gave a half-hearted attempt to argue. I
calmly reminded her that she had helped to create the consequence. I was
pretty impressed when she apologized and quickly got to work. That was the
only time dishes were left out all week. We all enjoyed our ice-cream at the end of the week.
At the next week's meeting, we decided to continue with both positive and
negative consequences for two more weeks. We will then discuss if they need
I could never have imagined this working so well with just the three of us.
I felt that giving her a forum to assert herself was the last thing we
needed. I was wrong. She needed a forum to assert herself appropriately.
We have only been doing this for about a month, but already I can see a big
difference in the way that we relate to each other as a family. It has been
a great blessing.
Well, Heidi. I don't really need to say much here. You have answered a lot of the questions people ask me about if family meetings work, if structure can even help a smaller family, and if children can learn respect by putting Self-Government principles into practice. Thanks for sharing such an inspiring story! It is exciting for me to envision what your family relationships will be like for years to come; safe, happy, and respectful.