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My daughter is reluctant to participate in a family meeting, before day one. While I will ask her, what kinds of objections do you anticipate she has?

She has no background from me as to what this meeting is. Perhaps she has heard something objectionable about such meetings from friends or a school counselor. I will ask her, but it will help to anticipate some of her objections. She is 13 and sharp as a tack. She is my step daughter. With a less than stellar natural father. I know I need to get her to buy in. I am just looking for further ideas about what objections she might possibly have.

I suspect that part of it is the word family. I think she is secretly reluctant to define us with the word family. She would of course not raise this objection openly. I suspect she also thinks that it will be a "family lecture" which is entirely different than my plan for such an activity.

It seems she has an objection to the term "family meeting" itself.

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    Please avoid discussion in the comments. Comments are intended for clarification. Discussion belongs in Parenting Chat. – user420 Sep 27 '14 at 22:11
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    Not to downplay the long winded answers that all have validity to them, but am I grossly oversimplifying it here: she's 13...what teenage boy/girl likes to have meetings? – Steve Nims Sep 28 '14 at 2:12
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My first guess is she is expecting the worst. When people have good news they tend to tell it to you immediately. When they have bad news they call family meetings.

My second guess is that she thinks you want something from her. If you didn't she wouldn't need to be there. Now no matter how trivial you think your request is you have to remember she is 13. She probably doesn't like being told what to do.

I remember when I was 13 (and honestly even now) the thought of someone telling me we were going to have a "family meeting" would make me cringe. I don't want to tell you what to do, but 13 is older than you think. It's around this age that kids start feeling like adults. Sometimes it's best to indulge them; how would you like it if your mother or father phoned you every week asking for a family meeting (Not trying to attack you, just trying to put you in her shoes).

Lastly as a step child myself, don't try to force family. I know it's tough when you want a relationship with another person and they just don't respond. I don't know if this is the case, but trying to force something is directly self-defeating.

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  • There is something to all of the answers, of course. I think this is closest to the reality. – amalgamate Sep 30 '14 at 19:44
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The problem isn't "family", it's "meeting". Meetings without an announced agenda are generally a Bad Thing in business, and not much better in a family. And anything called a "meeting" is an immediate turn-off.

Heck, I don't know what you think a "family meeting" is, so I would be nervous about attending!

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    +1 Either there is no agenda, and the meeting will be a waste of time, or there is an agenda known to some participants but concealed from others, and that is highly objectionable. – Patricia Shanahan Sep 26 '14 at 0:20
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    +1 and more if I could. The whole framing of this is objectionable, and the stepdaughter is well justified in being reluctant to participate. – R.. GitHub STOP HELPING ICE Sep 26 '14 at 17:32
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    Nobody likes being blindsided and/or railroaded, which is usually what happens when an agenda is not clear in advance. – James Snell Oct 16 '14 at 21:45
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From the sounds of it you have kind of set her up to not see "family meetings" in a positive light.

First, it sounds like family meetings aren't a common occurrence at you house. In your daughters mind this might translate into thoughts of "Ok, something serious is coming." Serious means something she will have to deal with, usually because it will be hard / involve change / be unpleasant / etc.

Second, like you mentioned in your question, she might see it as "family lecture incoming." Since she doesn't know what it is about, only that it is coming, this is a valid possibility for her. Lectures are never fun. No surprise this might put her off.

Third, she doesn't know what it is about. This means it could be about any one of a million things, from we are moving, to your mom is pregnant, to where do we want to go on vacation. Going back to the previous two points, she probably isn't expecting anything good.

If it is to be about something good, she can't possibly be prepared for the meeting. Suppose the meeting is about where should we go on vacation. She either hasn't thought about where she wants to go, meaning the meeting will look like a waste of time ("I haven't thought about it. I don't know what I want." will lead to a meeting that amounts to "Well think about it and come back later." and thus a waste.) Even if she has thought about it ("I want to go to Cancun") she may not have any research on what you could do there / how this could work / etc. She also may not have any cohesive, well-prepared arguments about why you should go to Cancun.

Ultimately this is a new experience for her and she doesn't know much about it going in. This leads to fear of the unknown which means she probably feels safer by turtle-ing up and preparing her defenses.

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If you don't have family meetings very often, my guess is the previous two were announcing the divorce and the remarriage, even if they weren't called a family meeting.

Aside from that, it's probably mostly a result of her not enjoying the anticipation, which is much more fun for the person in the know than it is for others. Next time, it's probably better either to be up front about the agenda, or to just call the meeting for right then.

Try not to imagine the worst. Her annoyance is pretty common for kids her age.

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  • my speculations precisely – Chrys Sep 25 '14 at 19:24
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If I were in her shoes, I would probably be wondering why do we have to have a "meeting"?!

In fact, I find it hard to reconcile the two words together: "family" and "meeting". I am not commenting on your particular family, just expanding on the concept of the "family meeting".

Families are supposed to have some cohesion and togetherness by default in whatever configuration they may be. The need for a "meeting", on the other hand underscores a separateness and formalized structure common in the business world.

If you need to get together and talk, just say so. Calling it a "meeting" already puts a strain on the situation. The term frames the event with formality in a space which is supposed to be at least somewhat free from the decorum requirements of the outside world.

Let me also point out that decorum is usually a requirement in situations in which there is potential for power clashes - it simply sets up ground rules for conflict. So, by calling it a "meeting", you are, possibly unwittingly, communicating the possibility for conflict which you require to be resolved in a civilized manner. Yikes!

So, I would drop the "meeting" word altogether from your family vocabulary. Families are where we are supposed to grow as persons, forming personal bonds with parents, siblings, etc. and "meetings" are hardly the vehicle to allow that.

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    We never had "family meetings" growing up at any stage. In fact I had no idea that people would organise such meetings formally in advance in the way described. As far as I know none of my school friends had them either (though of course I might not know). If I had a new step-parent and they called one, I'd be apprehensive too. – Francis Davey Sep 27 '14 at 11:49
  • There is a new concept, a parenting tool that comes out of agile (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agile_software_development) that is intended to empower children and help them embrace responsibility. Well I am not going to do the concept justice, but I believe it is worth trying. It's good to try new things. – amalgamate Sep 27 '14 at 20:33
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    OK, you didn't tell us that and we didn't know. Did you explain it to her? If so, remember that agile only works when you have buy-in from all the parties involved; if she doesn't see the need or the value to her, set it aside and perhaps ask again later. Remember, one of the things we should empower kids to do is to say "no" on occasion. – keshlam Sep 29 '14 at 16:35
  • 1. Not everything new is good. 2. I would be very suspicious of anything that came out of industry when applying it to family life - these are VERY different spheres. 3. Agile is not even suitable for every development project even with full team buy-in; sometimes, the tool just doesn't fit the job. Finally, as for having a family, seek to connect, not to manage ;) – gopherIT Oct 8 '14 at 19:50
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Your comment "define us with the word family" may be one of valid reasons.

If she doesn't fully define you with the word 'family', then even the symbolic act of explicitly structuring and naming various things as 'family something' is confrontational - it can easily be emotionally felt as pushing her to openly accept the definition you want (contradicting the current inner feelings) or requiring her to justify her opinion, which can also cause a natural defensive reaction. Any nudging (even if not intended that way) her to analyze and define things that she might want to avoid thinking about is likely to feel as an unpleasant pressure.

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    +1. It's been decades, and I still don't consider my mother's second husband a father, though I do consider him family of some sort. Demanding that she fully accept you before she's ready to is guaranteed to delay that acceptance, and insisting on the word "family" does have that effect. So (given my prior comment) maybe both words are problematic. Stop insisting on this name for it and call it something less weighted, and explain what it's actually supposed to be good for, and you may find she's more receptive. – keshlam Sep 27 '14 at 0:48
  • I think I should indeed change the name... but more than that. I need to re-tool my expectations of what it is farfignuton roe what ever. I think it exposes that more groundwork needs to be done. That I need to spend more time with her that is not, well, routine. – amalgamate Sep 27 '14 at 20:24
  • As a hypothetical, which part is more offensive: the word Family or the word meeting? Just musing. – amalgamate Sep 27 '14 at 20:27
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    Ask her, not us. That's your first step toward improving your relationship with her generally. TALK TO HER. Take her seriously as a person you're sharing the household with. Treating her as an abstraction is a guaranteed path to failure. – keshlam Sep 28 '14 at 1:27
  • Somewhat relevant to OP's situation: humansofnewyork.com/post/98681243161/… – R.. GitHub STOP HELPING ICE Sep 29 '14 at 2:09
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The answers and comments surrounding this question lead me to an answer that I will call the Dog Whisperer answer. Now I am not comparing my daughter to a dog, but when the Dog whisperer goes into troubled dog's home he usually fixes the owners. Usually the dog is just fine.

I think it is possible that my anxiety about trying something new may have been inadvertently communicated through my gestures and posture and tone. And that may (also) have contributed to her negative feelings towards the subject.

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  • Seems likely. All the more reason to go back to square one: why? Why hold a meeting in the first place? What are you trying to achieve? Why is a meeting a good method? – reinierpost Oct 21 '14 at 16:22

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