Kids are amazing teachers. To be effective, parents have to express ideas as simply as possible in easy to understand vocabulary. It also takes a deep understanding of the ideas having boiled it down to their essence. The ability to express ideas simply not only allows us to help our kids but helps us to be more effective as a teacher, relationship partner or within a leadership role.
Recently, my six-year old son has be telling my wife or I how “mean” we are for enforcing the rules or disciplining him when he acts knowingly outside the boundaries we set. Kids also push our limits of self-control as they can be so frustrating just like those people we work with, for, or manage. Thinking about some of our interactions with our son and ten-year old daughter, my wife and I came up with an idea that seemingly helped our kids understand why we put rules or limits in place.
We had a discussion before Sunday breakfast after a rather difficult day Saturday. First we established some basic premises like who are the parents. Parents have more experience and knowledge and our role is to help the kids become adults and achieve what they want in life. With that stated we also admitted we are figuring out how to be parents everyday and don’t know everything. Our intent is to simply help them become who they want to be. We then asked each of our kids what they wanted to be when they grew up. Our daughter currently wants to become a violinist or an engineer and our son wants to be an archeologist. We wrote this information on a small hand-held white bard we have at home along with some of the information below.
We then asked what they would need to be able to become what they wanted. We talked briefly of reading, writing, math and other studies. We talked about doing chores and homework before going out to play. We talked about things not directly related to their goals are distractions. While some distractions can help us learn and balance our lives, it’s up to us individually to know what is helping us along our path to our objective or not. We also talked about how we have to be safe so we survive to bring about our vision of our long-term future. We will need help from and work with others and thus not hurt others along the way. With this in mind, my wife and I put rules in place for the safety of our children. We also work with them a lot on empathy and understanding how our actions impact others physical and emotionally. Not being safe or having empathy also effects our ability to do what we want in life. Safety and Empathy are the basis of most of our house rules and boundaries. From this we learn respect of ourselves and others. We learn to think first, be patient and allow others to express themselves so we can arrive at agreements together. Safety and Empathy are the foundation for whatever we do in life.
Looking forward, we have our needs to live. We have requirements to accomplish what we want to do with our lives creating additional “needs.” We also have distractions that lead us away from our objectives. There are limits to these things which is why rules are in place. It is up to us to set limits for ourselves so we don’t stray from always moving forward towards our objectives. To make sure we meet our own expectations requires self-control, management of our decisions and actions. Everyday we make decisions to balance ourselves within our limits of safety, empathy, needs and distractions. Ultimately, it’s not the rules and discipline we as parents place on the kids, but whether the kids learn self-discipline and control to guide themselves. So in being “mean” we are being compassionate, supportive and providing direction with the intent of the kids making the most out of their own lives.
After we got waded through the conversation, my wife said she thinks of this idea as simply “the game of life.” I call it managing the biz of you. It doesn’t matter what you call it. Balancing our needs, distractions, empathy and safety is something we all do. Below is the white board we used in our discussion with a more polished version of what we drew at the bottom of this post.
During the conversation we also illustrated the concept with examples directly relatable to recent behaviors of our six-year old. He’s a collector. He loves gathering things. He found a piece of glass a week or so ago. My wife told him it was dangerous to keep and should be thrown away. It didn’t have any sharp edges so my wife didn’t verify he threw it away and forgot about it. Low and behold, she got a call from the “dean” of his elementary school indicating he had glass in his pocket and it was taken away. The school teacher also told him it was dangerous and said he could hurt not only himself but others. The red area on the white board picture above shows how we depicted that in the self-management model. The school took it away as it was seen as a threat to students and thus our son was outside some of the limits of empathy or rules of the school. Gathering stuff is also one of our son’s character traits. We indicated just gathering and obtaining things gives you more burdens and pulls you away from your vision just as much as not focusing on what’s needed.
Our children’s behavior on Sunday was very good. It was also good Monday afternoon after school until the weary dreary’s set in just before bed. Who knows if there positive behavior was influenced by our family discussion or just random chance of daily happenings. Only time will tell if some of these concepts sink in. We’ll keep reminding them. We’ll keep learning from them so we can help in whatever way we can. Our current definition of success is to launch them in life towards becoming what they choose to be. We’re parents and that’s our vision aside from surviving the teenage years and eventually retiring away.
Here is a more polished version of the graph. The colors are coincident with the Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs: Physiological, Safety, Love/Belonging, Esteem, and Self-Actualization.
Here’s my attempt at distilling the model down to what I think the essence is:
- CHECK YOUR PREMISES. Understand you’re place in a situation, environment or life.
- HAVE A VISION. Know what you want to do with your life by creating a vision defining what success is for you (not marketing, society, or other influences)
- RECOGNIZE LIMITS. Know your boundaries of not hurting yourself or others
- KNOW WHAT’S NEEDED. Understand what your basic needs are in addition to those things needed to bring about your vision,
- KNOW WHAT’S A DISTRACTION. Realize what’s keeping your from doing what’s needed in the moment or with respect to your goals or objectives
- SEEK DAILY BALANCE: Knowing your boundaries, needs and distractions so you may create your own rules to keep you focused on what you decide is important.
- ALWAYS MOVE FORWARD: Things change. Keep moving forward by doing things in line with your vision even when there are set backs or problems as there will undoubtedly be. Problems, pain and suffering not only define a major part of us but are how we navigate through our lives to create what we intent.
Self-Management is the only way to be successful no matter how you define your success.
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