Making Time for Your Family

by Julie Freedman Smith & Gail Bell

At Parenting Power, we’ve been talking about time all month. The focus has been on creating time for what is uniquely important to each of us. There is always enough time for what is truly important in our lives. The way to find the time is to recognize what those things are, stop shoulding/hoping/wishing for the time and actually make the time…once a week or once a month or a couple of times a year…whatever can work.

One of the easiest ways to create time in your life is to save yourself from the time-wasters of the world. What are those time-wasters? They are different for everyone.

Maybe your time-waster is searching for your keys every time you put them down (that used to be Julie’s time-waster – she found a bunch of time by deciding to always put her keys in her left hand jacket pocket.) Maybe your time-waster is washing dishes after the food has dried on rather than washing them right away when the food is still easily removed.

Today, we’re asking:

When do you make time for your family?

We have a tool to help you do just that!

A huge parenting time-waster is having the same argument over and over again, or stewing over the tiny parenting issues that just won’t go away. Not only do these two activities eat into a family’s time, they eat into our life-blood. It can feel exhausting to walk, yet again, into an argument that we did yesterday and will do again tomorrow (homework, teeth-brushing, putting shoes away, bedtimes). It feels so disheartening to constantly repeat oneself and know that you are being disrespected and ignored.

One of the easiest ways to fix that nagging parenting itch or stop the recurring argument is the family meeting. This is not rocket-science. It is a simple tool that works.

Family meetings save us from the impossible task of problem-solving in the heat of the moment. They are a way to work together, as a family; to solve problems when the emotions are no longer running the show. The consistency of the family meeting means that there is suddenly time to solve those nagging itches and to change the scripts for the recurring arguments.

We believe that there is more than one right way to parent…and we believe that there is more than one right way to have a family meeting. Find the way that works for your family: whether it is a regular Sunday afternoon discussion, a daily dinner table check-in or a systematic travel-time interaction.

Some key tools:

  • Find a time that will actually work – if it doesn’t work you won’t stick with it
  • Keep the format consistent
  • Let others contribute to the agenda (Gail keeps a piece of paper in her car and one taped to the inside of the kitchen cupboard – when there is a family issue, it goes on the paper and her family knows that it will be handled at the next family meeting – it is off her mind and on the paper.)
  • Believe in your kids abilities to solve the problems – kids are creative and capable.

Lao Tzu wrote, in the Tao Te Ching (2500 years ago),

“Act before things exist; manage them before there is disorder…The small is easily scattered.”

Family meetings allow us to do exactly this. When we have a regularly planned time and system for discussing problems when they first appear, we manage them before they become big family challenges. The energy and stress of arguing and feeling disrespected becomes available for other things. We are creating time for our family.

This week: What will your family meeting look like? Ask 4 simple questions of the family:

  1. What worked well in our family this week?
  2. What didn’t work well in our family this week?
  3. What do we need to change?
  4. How do we change it?

Julie and Gail are the founders of Parenting Power. They provide parents with strategies to become confident, capable and calm. Check out more great tips at