Raising Children With Roots, Rights, & Responsibilities

Parent Education Handout #2b

Family Peace Circles


Here are some tips for holding family circles:

1. Announce that family circles are an opportunity for having input on family decisions. No one is forced to attend. You can decide as a family if overnight guests are invited to family circles or asked to entertain themselves. If kids don't want to participate at first, or need to get up, simply ask them to stay nearby, so you can get their feedback when needed. Remind them that the value of staying involved is that their ideas will be added to the decision-making process. Since everyone needs to agree before a decision is made, explain to those who aren't choosing to be present that they are consenting to live with whatever decisions the rest of the family makes at least until the next family circle. Eventually, people participate because they know this is a place for expressing their needs and getting their needs met.

2. Have family circles at a time when everyone is usually home. Don't force kids to give up a favorite activity to attend! The time and day may vary based on other commitments and events. At the end of one family circle, set a time for the next. Demonstrate your commitment by scheduling your personal events around it.

3. It helps to have the first few family circles center around a fun topic for discussion like, "What do we want to do on our family vacation?" Save boring tasks or difficult agenda items like household jobs for later on, but always include some fun and interesting agenda items each time to keep family members motivated.

4. Provide a special treat, for family circles only! This creates a satisfying ritual or tradition. Maybe you like homemade sweet rolls. Gather around the table with your special treat and a piece of paper. You're ready. Informal family circles are inviting.

5. Start circles with something kids won't want to miss. A song, a joke-telling session, a pun-making session, anything your family resonates to. End meetings with a celebration such as giving each other a compliment or mentioning something you appreciate about each other.

6. Demonstrate active listening to your kids. Repeat back (paraphrase) what you heard. Incorporate their ideas.

7. Do upcoming scheduling by passing around a calendar (for third graders and up) to record their upcoming events, rather than discussing them (it gets too long). Older children who drive can be asked to initial any commitments of the younger children that they are willing to chauffeur.

8. Use a talking piece so everyone has ample opportunity to speak. A talking stick is just a symbol of who is talking. It can be a carefully decorated stick or a simple branch.

9. Make decisions by consensus. They need to be good for everyone, or they are not good decisions.