I recently got an email from my friend Becca Krantz, asking for my views on a bush-full of thorny questions about how to run effective meetings. While the list is somewhat eclectic, they’re all worthy queries and I’m inspired to offer my responses as a blog series. Here’s what she asked:
There are two angles on this:
A. When the meeting topic is about the children or policies affecting them
Depending on their age, it may be entirely appropriate to have the input of children on matters affecting them. (Note that I didn't say, "The kids get to decide"; I said, "The kids opinions are taken into account.") While it makes no sense to ask two-year-olds for their take on how adults should discipline kids acting out, it probably does make sense to get responses from 12-year-olds on this topic. As children negotiate the semi-tortuous journey toward maturity, there needs to be a sequence of opportunities for them to try on increasing levels of responsibility.
B. When kids are curious about what adults do in meetings
When I was a child, I always wondered what my Dad did when he "went to work," and it's natural for children to go through a period of being interested in learning more about what their parents do at meetings. (For my kids, this happened most in years 5-10, yet it will vary considerably by child. I still recall fondly my son sitting patiently on my lap as I participated in a two-hour meeting of the Federation of Egalitarian Communities Assembly when he was only three years. At the end the meeting, to my amazement, he'd drawn pictures to capture the notes of what people had said. He explained it was the best he could do, because he couldn't write.)
For my money it's a great opportunity to teach by example, riding the wave of child curiosity as far as it will go. They can learn a lot of important cultural lessons by watching how adults work to solve problems cooperatively, and I think it's smart to give them every chance to explore this rich territory.