You can use the ‚ÄúProblem-Solving Worksheet‚ÄĚ in the Problem-Solving Toolset for one-on-one, sibling, parent/child, and family council problem solving. Use the following lists to get started and feel free to add, change, or modify them to suit your needs. Get the creative juices flowing!

Lesson  Activities3,4

Everyone is special. This activity teaches a lesson and builds teamwork at the same time. The family bakes a cake as the activity and snack. As you make the cake, each family member 


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takes an ingredient or job to do to prepare the cake. As each ingredient is added, talk about how special and important it is. The ingredients are good all by themselves, but unless they are mixed together, you can’t call it a cake. While the cake cooks, discuss how each person in the family is important and adds special gifts the family appreciates. A family is where you can be yourself without worry of criticism. These bonds are created when we serve and help each other. Discuss what the cake would be like if we left out any of the ingredients. Is any one ingredient more important than another? How does this apply to our family?

Secret admirer. Write each family member’s name on a slip of paper and fold it. Each person chooses a slip (but not one with their own name). Without revealing the name of the person, have family members tell of an incident in which another family member showed love. “I’m thinking about someone who did _____ to show me love. Have the other family members guess the loving family member.

Help someone outside your family. For young children, choose a service that is small and simple, writing a note or drawing a picture for someone who is sick or for a grandparent far away.

Discussing death. (Use a glove with your hand to describe physical death.) ‚ÄúSuppose my hand represents your spirit. It is alive. It can move by itself. Suppose this glove represents your physical body. A glove cannot move by itself. But when the spirit enters it (put your hand in the glove and move it around), the physical body can move. As we live on earth, each of us is a spirit clothed in a physical body. Someday because of old age, disease, or accident, the spirit will leave the physical body. We then say the person has died (take off the glove and lay it down). So, death is a separation of the spirit from the physical body. Death is not, however, an end of life, for the spirit continues to live (show that your hand still moves).‚ÄĚ


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One new thing I learned this week is . . .

One nice thing someone in the family did for me this week is . . .

(Family member) is special to our family because . . .

One funny thing that happened to me this week is . . .

A good habit I have is . . .

Something I read in the paper or heard this week and how I felt about it is . . .

A good clean joke I heard this week is . . .

What really makes me happy is . . .

The three most important things in my life are . . .

Something (family member) did for me this week that I never thanked him/her for is . . .

Something I do well is . . .

My biggest accomplishment is . . .

Something I did that helped someone this week is . . .

Something I did that took courage is . . .

The funniest thing I’ve done is . . .

One way I’ve improved myself is . . .

A good habit I have is . . .



A bad habit I have and what I can do about it

A time when it was the hardest/easiest for me to be honest The hardest decision I ever made

The worst decision I ever made and what I learned from it

Something I want to do, but am afraid to do. What’s the worst that could happen? What’s the best? The hardest thing to deal with at school/work

Expectations of authority figures, dealing with authority Being accepted by others (cliqués)

Rules, how to deal with unfair rules

Different opinions, how to disagree respectfully Male/female relationships

What is your ‚Äúpurpose‚ÄĚ in life? How do you know?

Drugs/alcohol/smoking, sex and dating (consider parents and teens who are attending parties) Personal/career goals

Dealing with conflicts Attention‚ÄĒwho gets it and why Honesty and openness with tact

Permission  for  reader  to  reprint  this  page  for  personal  use  only  granted  by  author,  Jody  Johnston  Pawel,  LSW,  The  Parent’s  Toolshop, ©  2000.


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AGENDA (at least do the starred items)








‚ėÖ ¬† ¬† ¬†NEW BUSINESS:






‚ėÖ ¬† ¬† ¬†FAMILY¬† CALENDAR:
















Permission  for  reader  to  reprint  this  page  for  personal  use  only  granted  by  author,  Jody  Johnston  Pawel,  LSW,  The  Parent’s  Toolshop, ©  2000.


Chapter  14:  Family  Council  Toolset                                                                                             405





  • The purpose of family councils is to have regularly scheduled time together to build a sense of unity, make decisions, resolve problems, and teach values and life skills. Council meetings are useful for any family, school, or group.
  • Every¬† member¬† has¬† a¬† role.¬†‚ėÜ‚ėÜ‚ėÜ‚ėÜ
             Necessary roles are the Leader, Recorder, Ice Breaker, and Anchor.
             Optional roles are the Discussion Topic Leader and Snack, Game,
   Entertainment, or Lesson Planner.
  • Start with those who are willing to attend; include anyone who lives with the family. Let everyone know they are welcome to attend, when they are ready. Never punish someone for not attending.
  • Meet regularly, not just to discuss problems. Don‚Äôt skip meetings because you are too busy.
  • Start positive and end positive. Keep an atmosphere of equality.
  • Start and end on time and set time limits on discussions.
  • Discuss issues that affect the entire family. Individuals can ask for family input on personal issues. Never handle individual discipline in a family council.
  • Hold maintenance meetings to discuss how councils are going.


Ground  rules:

  • Express¬† yourself¬† respectfully,¬† with¬† no¬† name-calling¬† or¬† blaming.
  • Everyone‚Äôs¬† opinions¬† and¬† feelings¬† are¬† okay;¬† listen¬† with¬† respect.
  • Limit griping; turn the complaint into a suggestion.
  • Focus on goals and solutions, not problems. Don‚Äôt get side-tracked.
  • Get¬† children¬† involved¬† in¬† suggesting¬† solutions.¬† Allow¬† all¬† ideas.
  • Give¬† everyone¬† an¬† equal¬† chance¬† to¬† share¬† feelings¬† and¬† ideas.
  • ¬†Reach win/win solutions everyone agrees with. Don‚Äôt vote.
  • If you can‚Äôt reach a consensus, table the issue until you reach a final decision or agree on a trial period. Reserve ‚Äúexecutive decision-making privilege‚ÄĚ for critical emergency decisions.
  • All¬† decisions¬† hold¬† firm¬† until¬† the¬† next¬† family¬† council.

Permission  for  reader  to  reprint  this  page  for  personal  use  only  granted  by  author,  Jody  Johnston  Pawel,  LSW,  The  Parent’s  Toolshop, ©  2000.


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A. Identify and Correct Mistakes. In each situation, the family makes one or more mistakes in setting up or conducting a family council. For each situation, (a) identify the mistake and (b) offer suggestions to correct or prevent it.

  1. Holly says she can come to family councils only every second and fourth Sunday of the month, because she has softball practice on the first and third Sundays. The family decides to meet only the second and fourth weeks so everyone can attend.
  2. In the Hoskins family, meetings are attended by Dad, Mom, Hannah, and Seth. Grandpa Hoskins, who has lived in the back bedroom for the last four years, is not invited.
  3. The McCann family has decided not to hold family councils because one of their three children, Trevor, said he wouldn’t attend. He thinks the idea is stupid.
  4. In the Metzger family, meetings are held in Dad’s study. He sits behind his desk and everyone else pulls in chairs from the kitchen.
  5. Joel is Chairperson this week. On every question he asks for a vote, counts the ‚Äúyeas‚ÄĚ and ‚Äúnays,‚ÄĚ and lets the majority rule.
  6. Alyssa‚Äôs parents are divorced, and she lives with her mother and her two brothers. The four of them have regular family councils. This week, Alyssa complains to her mother about her weekend visits¬†with her father. She says she spends most of her time cleaning up his apartment and washing several days‚Äô worth of dirty dishes. Mother says, ‚ÄúWell, bring it up at our family council tomorrow.‚ÄĚ
  7. Brandon feels that a decision made at a family council about his bedtime was unfair. He pleads with Mom, who says it’s okay for him to stay up until 10:00, instead of 9:00 as the family decided. (There are two mistakes here, did you find them both?)
  8. Mr. and Mrs. Bowling ask the kids, ‚ÄúWhere do you want to go for vacation this year?‚ÄĚ The children (ages 15, 10, and 5) want to go to the beach. The parents want to go to the mountains. Since Mother and Dad are paying for the vacation, they decide that the family will go to the mountains anyway, since they dislike the beach.

¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†B. Get Unstuck. The following two families are ‚Äústuck.‚ÄĚ For each situation, answer the following questions:

       a.  How is this family getting stuck in their problem solving?
       b.  How could they have approached the decision differently?
       c.  How can they get unstuck and reach a consensus (win/win) decision?
  1. Mr. and Mrs. Evans have three children: Jared, 10, Casey, 9, and Kara, 6. During their first family council, they tried to plan a family outing. Jared and Kara decide they want to go to a movie, but Casey wants to go to a baseball game. Mother would prefer the movie. Father would like to go to the game, but is willing to go to the movie if the rest of the family would rather go there. Casey refuses to go along with the rest of the group.
  2. Travis, 8, is a homebody. He’d always rather stay home than go somewhere. Saturday is when the family meets to plan something fun together. Everyone, except Travis, wants to go to the movies. Although Travis says he likes this movie, today he insists that he wants to stay home. All he wants to do is play with his friends and video games. Travis’ parents want the family to stay together. Travis is too young to leave him home alone and they don’t want to pay a sitter to watch him.

Activity  for  the  Week

Hold a family council this week.

1. Decide which roles you would like members to choose. The necessary roles are already checked.


Chapter  14:  Family  Council  Toolset                                                                                             407



___‚úď__ Chairperson

______ Song selector



___‚úď__ Recorder

______ Game planner



___‚úď__ Ice-breaker

______ Lesson planner



___‚úď__ Anchor-person

______ Snack planner


2. Select items for your agenda. The necessary agenda items are already checked.


___‚úď__ Compliments

___‚úď__ Calendar planning



______ Reading of the minutes

______ Lesson/topic discussion



___‚úď__ Progress on decisions made

______ Roles for next council meeting



___‚úď__ New decisions/problems

______ Closing Activity



______ Finances/Allowances

______ Snack/song/poem/story



Detailed  Answers

       A.  Identify and Correct Mistakes.

  1. Holly’s softball practice is a responsibility and she doesn’t have practice all day. Instead of canceling the council meeting, the family can find a day and time convenient for everyone.
  2. The Hoskins family needs to welcome Grandpa Hoskins, since he lives with them.
  3. The McCann family can hold family councils, even if Trevor chooses not to attend. They can let Trevor know he is always welcome. They do not punish Trevor for not attending or exclude him from any family activities they plan, just because he didn’t help plan them. If he doesn’t like the idea, they can invite him to attend the council and offer his ideas.
  4. Mr. Metzger is exerting his authority position, nonverbally, by sitting behind his desk. The family needs to meet in neutral territory, where everyone is on an equal level.
  5. Effective family councils do not use voting. Joel can guide the family through the problem-solving process, until they reach a consensus decision.
  6. Alyssa‚Äôs problem is with her father, who lives elsewhere, so this problem is not appropriate to resolve at the family council. If Alyssa‚Äôs mother is not bitter and can remain objective and helpful, she can do one-on-one problem solving with Alyssa. If she cannot remain objective, she can offer Alyssa‚Äôs siblings as resources. If they visit together, they could suggest holding family councils at Dad‚Äôs. Or the kids could hold their own ‚Äúsibling‚ÄĚ council to brainstorm ideas.
  7. Brandon’s bed time is not an appropriate issue to discuss at a family council. If general bedtimes are discussed as they apply to all the children, then it might be appropriate to discuss. In that case, any agreement must hold at least until the next family council. Mom does not have the authority or right to cancel or change a decision the entire family made.
  8. Mr. and Mrs. Bowling asked, ‚ÄúWhere do you want to go for vacation this year?‚ÄĚ This implies the possibilities are endless. If this is truly the choice, they need to work on a win/win decision. They could choose someplace where there are mountains and beach, for example. If they are only willing to go to the mountains, they can present the decision as, ‚ÄúThis year, we are going to go on vacation to the mountains. What would you like to do while we are there?‚ÄĚ

       B.  Get  Unstuck

  1. The Evans family has tried to tackle too much for their first family council. Instead of deciding what to do for their family activity, they might want to start by deciding how they will make the decision and what kinds of activities are appropriate. For example, does the activity have to be with the entire family? Can pairs break up and have independent ‚Äúdates‚ÄĚ? Then they could brain-storm ideas for possible activities. Could each person have a turn selecting an activity? How do they set priorities? A movie shows for a month at a time, but that particular sporting event might


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feature a favorite team only on that date. Under those circumstances, would the sporting event be considered a priority? If the family is split between two options, can there be a conditional agreement that the next activity will be the other choice?

  1. Travis is trying to exert his independence. If he feels his opinions are not considered in a decision, he may choose to start a power struggle. Travis‚Äô parents have several options that could prevent this. If their bottom line is that Saturdays are for family activities, they can point out that Travis can usually stay home other times. They may want to take turns picking a family activity, so Travis gets his way sometimes. They could shift the focus of the choices, ‚ÄúYou do have to go, but you don‚Äôt have to participate.‚ÄĚ Usually, children come around once they are in the car and see the activity. The parents could also provide one last option, ‚ÄúYou may choose to stay home, but you will need to pay for a sitter out of your money.‚ÄĚ Even if he chooses this option, he will be unlikely to follow through with it. If Travis complains or tries to spoil the fun for everyone else, he is trying to get revenge for losing a power struggle or vote. To prevent this, his parents want to acknowledge his disappointment at having to do something he doesn‚Äôt want to do. They can redirect his behavior by letting him choose some of the activities they do there.



It’s always difficult for busy families to set aside time for family councils. Make a commitment to your family and children’s future by scheduling weekly family councils. We all can use the practice and the long-term benefits are well worth our efforts.

Chapter 15, ‚Äú Three C‚Äôs: Consistency, Criticism, and Confidence,‚ÄĚ is the final stop on our tour of The Parent‚Äôs Toolshop. We now have all the tools we need to build a healthy family and reach our long-term parenting goals. We have learned many new ideas and made great strides in our growth as parents. Now, our challenge is to nurture ourselves and maintain our progress.

We‚Äôve dispelled many parenting myths in The Parent‚Äôs Toolshop. The last chapter corrects the last few myths by explaining the true definition of consistency (the first ‚ÄúC‚ÄĚ). The second ‚ÄúC‚ÄĚ stands for criticism‚ÄĒhow to respond (or not respond) so criticism and unhelpful advice do not deter us from our long-term parenting goals. This chapter also gives us a final booster shot of confidence (the third ‚ÄúC‚ÄĚ) by offering suggestions for self-nurturing, so we continue our upward path of growth. As we end our tour of The Parent‚Äôs Toolshop, we reflect on all we‚Äôve learned and how much we‚Äôve grown‚ÄĒand look ahead, to what the future holds for us as we continue our mission of building a healthy family.



  1. For more information about conducting ‚Äúformal‚ÄĚ family meetings, read: Positive Discipline, by Jane Nelsen (Ballantine, 1987; Revised Edition, 1996); S.T.E.P.: Systematic Training for Effective Parenting (American Guidance Service, 1982) and The Next STEP (American Guidance Service, 1987), by Donald Dinkmeyer, Gary McKay, Donald Dinkmeyer Jr., James S. Dinkmeyer, and Joyce L. McKay; and Active Parenting, by Michael Popkin (Harper Row, 1987).
  2. ‚ÄúFamily Home Evening‚ÄĚ is a practice of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons).
  3. Lesson activity ideas are used with the permission of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, from their Family Home Meeting publication, which accompanies their video, ‚ÄúFamily First‚ÄĚ (1992). For a free video, call 1-888-537-8433.
  4. Another terrific (and inexpensive) resource for family council activities is Families Creating a Circle of Peace, published by The Institute for Peace and Justice (1996). To order a copy, contact the Families Against Violence Advocacy Network at 4144 Lindell Blvd., #408, St. Louis, MO 63108 or you can call 314-533-4445 or send e-mail to