Over the past year, my wife and I have shared idea – upon idea – about how we as a couple should be parenting our kids. In my house, I tend to generate ideas at breakneck speed. From how we speak to one another in front of the kids, to how we might engage the kids in intellectual endeavors (over Wii baseball), to how we react when our oldest pulls his pants down in the back yard to take a potty break (yes, sadly this happens frequently enough to address). I tend to generate ideas around “interactions” within our family. My wife tends to generate ideas around “organizational” detail. Not only that, she typically “implements” these ideas concretely. Consequently, this is one of the reasons why I love her…she knows how to “implement” her ideas.
That said, this post will focus on those ideas that remain squishy (think “why” over “how”). Day after day, I start conversations with my wife that start something like this:
“Hey…when the kids are rolling around on the floor screaming at us, do you think we could try…”
“Umm…when the kids won’t eat any dinner, maybe we should try…”
Most of these ideas are good ones, at least in theory. The problem is, if you’re like me, I rarely recall any of these ideas in the heat of the moment. At least not in any meaningful way. Why is that?
Why don’t parents practice this stuff !?
Why don’t I practice this stuff?!
Don’t we know it might come in handy at some point?
Doubtful any of the parents who read these lines would disagree that parenting is the hardest job ever. For me, it’s the most exhausting, exhilarating, and emotionally challenging set of tasks in my life. And no one trains themselves on how to do it prior to actually doing it. I wish there was a class in school for this stuff. There’s not. At least not at Indiana University, or the lesser Big Ten school my wife attended <cough>Wisconsin<cough>.
So here’s the idea, one I shamelessly borrowed from a website on Agile software adoption called AgileInAFlash.com. Every so often Agileinaflash.com outlines some best practices for Agile Adoption on a page that looks like a note card. It then gives you the option to print it on a page by itself. Simple right. I love these handy little flashcards that can be hung in your office, or stuck to your note book and walked from meeting to meeting. The idea is so simple!
So now, when I read a pertinent chapter in a book, or get some dynamite advice, I stick a big and visible 3 x 5 flash card in a conspicuous location around the house.
Some 3×5 Notecard Examples:
- 3 Rules for Praising the Kids:
- 1) Be specific,
- 2) Focus praise on hard work, not intelligence, and
- 3) Don’t overdo it! We don’t need praise junkies!
- 3 Rules For Arguing
- Fight fair
- Don’t yell
- Bring the fight to some sort of conclusion IN FRONT OF the kids
- How to Give Choices to the Kids
- DONT respond in haste. Take some time before you give a set of choices.
- Ask the kids to help come up with some ideas if appropriate.
- Give the kids 2 choices (do you want to put on your underwear first, or your shirt?)
- Both choices are ones you can live with (not: “do you want to put on your shirt, or should I” – you will be dressing your kids until they are 9)
- Let them decide as much as possible in this way
This technique is not new, but is effective enough to warrant consideration. My postulate is, if practiced, these types of responses would become second nature. Like anything else, I need to learn this skill, and if I don’t remember what I thought to say, I will never get better. After all, it’s not terrible to have some small reminders handy when emotions have colored your thinking. Sometimes shutting down your emotional side and “reading from the flash cards” is the best advice I could get. This is not so different from Love and Logic or Positive Discipline. Both of these parenting techniques recommend turning off the emotions and going into robotic-parent mode. The more you let yourself emotionally engage, the worse off you are.
With all of this, ParentingInAFlash.com was born (not built, mind-you, but born). Flash cards are starting to go up, and the idea is being piloted in the Montague household. I hope to launch the site soon, and I’m thinking through ways to generate content (free of course). I will let you know when it does and hopefully you can help pilot in your home. It just might give you a chance to practice the hardest job on the planet, parenting.