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Family night, family home evening, family meeting. Whatever you call it, a set time for your family to spend together each week is a great tool you should consider using to improve the relationships in your home. For my DMDD/ODD families, the thought of spending an evening together may seem ... hard. You might feel some dread at the thought. I encourage you to try it anyway.

We totally made over our family night last year, and one particular change made it a whole new experience: Compliments and Appreciation.

This is an idea I got from parenting expert Amy McCready, and I have absolutely loved it. The very first thing we do at family home evening is have each person say one thing they admire or appreciate about every other person in the room. When there are rough feelings between siblings or even between parents and children, having to search the brain to remember something you love about the other person is powerful. And for children and parents who may feel unappreciated or unseen, getting flooded with compliments is healing.

When this is implemented consistently, each family member knows they're going to be on the spot to produce at least one positive thing about every single other person; so they begin to look out for the good things. Brains naturally focus on the negative. It's a protective mechanism they use to keep you alive. It takes some reprogramming to get the brain to look out for and focus on the good. This is a great first step. Once you start looking for the good, you notice it more and more. It's a focus shift.

Here is our family night agenda:

1) Compliments and Appreciation

2) Calendaring -- We go over the next week's calendar so everyone knows what's coming up.

3) Meal planning -- Everyone selects one dinner they'd like to have that week. They also let me know if there's something particular they want from the store.

4) Problem solving -- Keep this very short and solution-focused only, or it can easily turn into complaining. "What can we do to help the house stay quiet during Dad's work meetings?" "How can we make sure everyone gets a turn on the Switch?"

5) Allowance -- I distribute weekly allowance (a great incentive for reluctant teens to come).

6) Activity and Treat -- The activity is simple: a quick game, a movie, singing, service, etc.

One final word about family night: keep your expectations low. It's not magic, it's a tool that produces change over time. If one child won't come, encourage, don't force. Sometimes there may be bickering. Sometimes you may run out of time for the activity. Sometimes the treat is skittles leftover from Halloween that you pull out of the pantry at the last minute. Yes to all of it. If you keep it simple, light, and fun, it will be much easier to execute. Focus on consistency, let go of perfection.

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