Sociocracy in Family Structures with Children

To prepare for working on my Trainer badges in Academy, I’ve started trying to find people who would be interested in attending trainings I led-- and one of the first people to respond is the patriarch of a large family.

I know @hope.wilder has made a lot of resources on working with children using sociocracy, but I was wondering if any of them (or any other resources) focused specifically on implementing sociocracy in the home vs in school settings.

I know @TedRau occasionally will make an example of using sociocracy to make decisions that families would make, but I’m not sure how deeply sociocracy was used as a governance system for his family.

I think in large part the person who has reached out to me wants more than what they would get out of just a bit of sociocracy training, and I’m wondering what else I can offer them, and myself as well so that I can feel more prepared for these types of situations in the future. They seem to be very comfortable making decisions for other people without much input, and so I’m afraid they might have an expectation that sociocracy will allow them to continue doing this but in a way where they get less negative feedback about it.

It also feels a bit scary for me to talk about, as someone who isn’t a parent of children and generally wants to be careful about saying anything that could be heard as criticism of someone’s parenting since there’s a lot of complicated social structures involved. It’s easier for me to say something generic like “rounds support equivalence of voice, and we make better decisions when every voice is heard because it gives us more information.” But I’m worried that if I am offering a training that is mostly comprised of one person’s family, that there will be tensions around how much parents should listen to their children(and vice versa), and that explaining how sociocracy works could be heard as criticism on someone’s parenting even if I’m careful to make the distinction clear. So, if people also have advice or opinions to offer on this, I’d gladly welcome it.

@Lainewyne great questions! There is a page for sociocracy in families that has an article or two. The principles in my article Sociocracy with Children and Other People apply in families as well as schools, and Let’s Decide Together is targeted both at parents and at teachers, and examples in the book are given for at home and in school. That said, actually changing power structures in families is very tricky. The adults have all the power by default, and the onus is on them to share it. If they don’t genuinely want to share power, they’ll just take it back. It takes a concerted, continued effort to share power with children. And if the parents don’t actually want to share power with their children, they really shouldn’t even start using sociocracy with them. So you could start there, by asking “Why are you interested in learning more about sociocracy?” and “How do you see sociocracy helping in your family?” The real question is: What problem are they trying to solve? If it’s “people complain about my decisions less” that’s not a good place to start.

The thing I tell adults that most often makes them relax about sharing power is that you should always start with domains.

  • What are the decisions that the adults keep in their domain?
    • Ex: safety, what jobs they have, what city to live in, even what school the kids go to most of the time, etc.
  • What are the shared domains with the children?
    • Ex: what movie to watch together as a family, what to eat on Wednesday dinners, how to organize the play room, how to get chores done.
  • What are the domains that are entirely up to the children?
    • Ex: How to organize their own room, what to wear daily, how to spend their allowance.

The most important thing is not that the children decide everything, or that the adults and children decide everything together. What children need is CLARITY of domains. And if you give children power, never take it back. That erodes trust.
Also, in shared decisions the adult has a consent vote, too. Knowing this helps people relax.

A safe thing to do in a workshop is to practice deciding “What’s our family band name?” You can have fun conversations about which instrument everyone would play and what genre it is. (outside of decision-making.) And use the selection process: Qualifications, nominations and give reasons, change, consent. Other fun examples are “What movie should we watch?” or “What board game should we play?” with the same selection process. “How should we get the dishes done?” is a much trickier question! And better saved for a second workshop or coaching. :slight_smile: Which I do! Calendly - Hope Wilder to book a 30 minute coaching session with me, people!! :slight_smile:
I have done one-on-one coaching with families before and LDT has been a hit in families.

For your situation, I would encourage you to ask more questions and be up-front if you don’t think sociocracy would be a good fit for them. If you feel like they need more support than you can offer, feel free to give them my contact info.
All the best and let me know if you have any reactions or follow-up questions!

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Awesome response from @hope.wilder already and probably exhaustive.
I just popped in to see how old the kids are, @Lainewyne.
I know @jerry.koch-gonzalez worked with a client that was a family with teens.

I’ve asked, and it turns out that the youngest is 13, which I think bodes well for not having to worry too much about differences in vocabulary between the participants… Also means everyone has at least 13 years of using their pre-existing governance system though.

Hi Hope,

Thanks so much for all of this. Between this and Academy earlier today, I felt much better when I had a phone call earlier today to talk about what they were hoping to get and what they could and couldn’t reasonably expect out of a couple hours of training. I recommended LDT to them shortly after it came out, but I’m not sure if they ever got around to reading it. I’ve just finally gotten the ebook for myself and have just re-worked my schedule to prioritize actually having time to read books occasionally again.

Is the “intial discovery meeting” the option they should choose if they want to make an appt with you?

Yes, that is the correct option.

Best of luck and feel free to reach out with any other questions!