“A TABLE!” That’s French for “Time to eat. Kids, come NOW! Prepare your taste buds and your conversation skills…”
On December 31 the family was dispersed in six different parties. On January 1, we all sat down for a meal together…and shared feedback on the previous year and insights for growing forward. We call this The Family Annual Review.
We do this every year and it is AN AMAZING family moment that the children request year after year.
Friends (who also are parents) exclaim, “What a great idea….but I’d be so scared.” We’re giving you the play-by-play so that you can get a feel for how it happens…and do it “chez vous” too!
Since we have four sons, we’ve given each one a full post. Keep clicking to the next post! Each child is different (don’t you KNOW!) so you catch a different aspect of the exchange from each one.
How To – Family Feedback
Children Give Feedback to Parents
Every year, and it has now been close to ten years, we set aside a moment to step back and review our relationships. It began when I realized I peppered my sons with feedback all day long. But when could they voice their likes and concerns to me in a way that I would receive them graciously?
The first year, the boys game me feedback.
One behavior I do well and that they want me to continue doing.
One behavior to talk about changing.
Sometimes this can be a no-brainer. (The first year our youngest son did this he piped up, “No more lemon cake.” Go figure. He felt the others got a treat when he was stuck with a cake he did not like. Apple cakes became the norm.)
Sometimes discussions ensue. We aim to close on an action step.
Parent Gives Feedback to Child
I learned so much from their feedback shared in this out-of-the-every-day-buzz-of-activity setting. The following year, I requested to share thoughts for them following the same process. It is one of my favorite times of the year.
I share an OFFICIAL affirmation (we take notes and review them occasionally throughout the year). This is what they do well.
I share a vision for their growth in character. In this post, you’ll read about my son and a vision for him growing in humility.
Read on and discover the richness of the exchange…and the natural flow too.
Feedback to Mom
Mom, sometime between the green beens and the cheese (meals chez nous are served in courses. We’re American AND French!): “Hey guys, let’s do the review. Who wants to give me feedback?”
Mom: “Son 1 (of course I used his name, probably preceded by a ‘honey’), why don’t you start. What is one thing I have done well this past year?”
Son 1 (19 years old. Junior in college): “I know I’m only supposed to say one thing, but here are two. You have been very welcoming of my girlfriend coming to stay at our home (she stays in the guest room). You’re becoming more flexible. You have also been kind in driving me back and forth to school (he comes home some weekends and usually takes public transportation…which takes 1 hr while, at no-traffic times, the car takes 20 minutes) on some short notices. Thanks.”
Mom: “I’m glad we have been able to coordinate schedules so that we can do those runs outside of rush-hour.”
Son 1: “…and to change, two things too! (meek grin) First, consider letting my girlfriend and I sleep in the same bed at home. And second, you’re not clear with the financial budget. When I come to you with exceptional expenses (contact lenses, pharmacy purchases…) you say those are in the budget, but when I worked out finances with Dad we did not include funds for that. So, I feel like I’m paying for too much.”
Mom: “About the girlfriend, I hear you. You know that we have different perspectives on this and I’m not willing to change (yet?). So what is the budget exactly?…. (Discussion to clarify)…well, let’s get that written down and put it in The Binder (THE PLACE where we store family ‘contracts’, kids’ friends’ phone numbers, forms we’ll need in two months and wonder where to keep in the meantime…)
For reimbursements, talk to me and bring receipts. You usually do so when my hands are full of soap suds from the dishes…so I’ll put Post-It notes in the kitchen drawer on which you can write an IOU and stick it on top of the stove. That way I’ll remember to pay you back.”
Son 1: “Thank you.”
Transmiting a Vision of Thriving to My Child
Mom: “My turn for feedback to you.” (Yes, all the other boys are listening…and eating. We get a few ‘Pass the _______’ as we’re going along.)
“What you have done that is really great is to develop a relationship of confidence with your Chinese tutor. (He helps a Chinese student with French and English…and with cultural adaptation.) From time to time you tell us of his surprised (horror-stricken) reactions to events at school. The entire family has benefited from your sharing those insights. And what it shows about you, is that you have been able to secure his trust so that he can express both positive and negative observations with confidence. That’s GREAT.”
Son 1: “Yeah, it’s been interesting for me too. Thanks.”
Mom: “Regarding growth for next year, be humble. You’ll be studying in Asia for 6 months. Life doesn’t happen the same way there as it does in Paris. We French are known for being aggressive and arrogant…and you have exhibited those attitudes in the past. Being humble means purposefully listening and learning. Be like a sponge: take in before squeezing out.”
Son 1: “I hear you.”
That’s good enough…it’s even wonderful!
Enjoy this year’s whole Family Feedback series: