Family Discussions = Learning Matters
Life is full of choices. You can decide to complete your work, or you can decide to go to a party. The act of making a choice is more difficult than being told what to do. Making a choice prompts a person to examine outcomes, measure outcomes to each other, and then react. In my family, my husband and I have opted to teach our children the value of choices that prompt consequences and learning moments. I emphasize to my children the power of choices through self-reflection. In our family, “bad” or “good” choices do not exist because every choice produces an opportunity for a learning lesson. In Choice Words by Peter Johnston, Johnston examines students’ human desires by specifying that students have choices and their choices can empower a student’s learning by instilling life-long skills. By embracing a student’s voice in making choices, teachers can help students to be independent, learn to self-regulate their choices, and then move forward with a plan by guiding students learning. Johnson uses the term “feeling a sense of agency” to describe the feeling that children need to be empowered and invest their personal will into their motivation to learn to feel engaged. Once a student feels valorized for their feelings and thoughts, their confidence will help examine their strategies to guide their learning through “valorization”.
My children grew up with the term “Family Meeting”, which was later changed to “Family Discussion”. When a family member calls a “Family Discussion”, the meeting entails self-evaluation. Typically at family meetings, we discuss areas of conflict between the children, children’s adherence to chores, or perhaps reevaluating rules in our family. At the meetings, we also discuss report cards; the children examine their grades, reflect on strengths and weakness and create goals for themselves. Through our family discussions, the children have assigned each other chores that need to be completed, they have measured their contributions to the family, they resolve personal biases with each other, but most importantly they create plans and goals of how to improve as a human being. Over the years, “Family Meetings” have been changed to “Family Discussions” because “Family Meeting” fostered a negative impression; whereas “Family Discussion” depicts that “we” will be discussing matters deeply.
At the meetings, my husband and I do not talk down to the children but empower their role as a valued member of our family. In response to the meetings, my older daughter Isabelle has expressed, “Why can’t you be like other mom’s and just tell me what to do?” I reply, “If I tell you what to do, will you value my words the same as you creating a goal for yourself, devising steps of how to achieve the plan, and then measuring your own success?” Isabelle replies after a heavy deep sigh and the hand on the hip (I am sure the eyes rolled to), “When I make the choice and I do not carrying out the plan, then I am mad at myself. If you tell me what to do and when it does not work out, then I have an excuse, and I just blame you for my failure.” The Aha-moment for a parent!
The family discussions are difficult and emotionally challenging. Self-reflection is our worst enemy, but it call also become our greatest ally. Through our discussion, the children have learned the power of valorization and they can dictate their choices, words, and/or actions. Therefore, through self-valorization, student learn to self-regulate themselves with accordance to their work effort, their relationship with others, and their self-production. As teachers, if we hand knowledge on a silver plate to students and students regurgitate the responses, the students fail to identify and extract learning lessons that can become a benefit to students beyond the lesson.