Thursday, May 25, 2006

Discipline saves your sanity 

Peter F. Drucker had some really great advice on leadership in this Forbes article. I realized that the themes are very common whether you are the head of an organization or your family. If you read any parenting magazine about how to manage your family life better, they basically say the same thing albeit framed differently. It may seem weird, but to be effective at either, you need goal setting, systemization, efficient operations, streamlined activities, prioritization, and good multi-tasking and delegation. So reframing Drucker’s advice to parenting, I surmised the following:

- Be confident. Learn to say no, and stick with it. Ignore what other people think, and do what works for you. Don’t try to be something you’re not; if you’re bad a cooking, order out more often. If you don’t want to cosleep, host a big birthday party, don’t do it out of peer pressure. Know your priorities so you can cut corners without guilt or embarrassment. Don’t overstretch yourself.

- Be trustworthy. Mean what you say and say what you mean. Consistent discipline saves you time because you don’t waste it chasing your kid around the store or cleaning up after their mess. So have a zero tolerance policy. Your child will behave because they know what to expect if they don't, so in the end you save time when you make good on your threats.

- Identify those tasks that make the biggest impact, and of those things that make a difference, decide which you can do best. Pick the important things to do that impact your day to day, not the trivial stuff that no one cares about or makes no impact.

- Learn when to give up on things that are not working for you, e.g. with sleep training.

- Find a place where you can have time to yourself to concentrate / do work. Me time is important or you’ll go nuts.

- Set up a system for everything in your house so everything works as effectively and smoothly as possible. Your kid is going to make everything topsy turvy so having your system will give you some sense of order and sanity.

- Make sure everyone in your family is on the same page (especially the parents), that you agree on the short and long term priorities and the details.

- Don’t be insecure! Know yourself and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Delegate and make someone else do the stuff you’re not as good at or don't have time to do. Ideally it is someone who is just as good if not better than you at it, but don’t forget about David Ricardo’s Comparative Advantage theory. At the minimum, figure out each person’s relative strength and get them to do more of it. (in the family or hired help)

Tactical steps towards effective parenthood:
- Don’t waste time looking for lost toys/socks – get over it.
- Plan your week – all chores, errands, meals so you can focus your time most effectively (and not waste it on multiple trips to the supermarket during the busiest times of day)
- Put everything in once place - put everything you need for a certain task in one area, box or shelf; i.e. all bills in a file that's stocked with stamps, checkbook, pen and envelopes all at once so you don't have to walk all over the house looking for them; or all kids' stuff in the same shelf
- Plan your day around what activities you have to do while the kid is napping (business phone calls, moving boxes up and down stairs), and what you can do while they’re awake (unloading the dishwasher) - and of course prioritize within each of these
- Dedicate times of day when you’re only doing work, laptop etc. and when you’re playing with kids. Concentrate on both 100%. Draw a line.
- For bigger projects, break it up and work on it a little at time instead of all at once so it doesn’t seem overwhelming
- Take your kid to the park right after school to blow off steam
- Try to make one period in the day for you (errands) and the other period for your kids (park)
- Go to sleep! Don’t stay up all night doing random stuff. You need to take care of yourself to be productive
- Wait until the end of the day before putting everything away. But calm down and don’t worry about all the mess. Your kids would be happier for it.

Most important - ENJOY yourself! Don't think of what you're doing as work! People who love what they're doing are happy and always do the best job.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Will you succumb to the pressure? 

Oy, Nightline had a special recently about how cut throat getting into preschool is in certain metropolitan areas. They reported that an acceptance letter from the best preschools is now harder to obtain than one from Harvard! Parents camping overnight in front of preschools in the freezing (18 degrees) cold, writing essays, making huge financial donations, stressing themselves out, succumbing to the pressure of getting into that "perfect school." Do I want to subject myself and my child to this ridiculous pressure, putting someone so young into a weird competitive situation, or can I just be confident knowing that she is getting great quality care and education where I've put her (which is the closest and most convenient Montessori school to my home)? The worst thing that would happen would be as a result of the preschool application process, I start looking at Isabella differently - how she compares to other children, how she might not be good enough, instead of just accepting her for who she is and how she is, after all, just a kid. And what would crush me the most is if I subconsciously start seeing failure (mine? hers?) in her beautiful, young, innocent face instead of pure love. And I think that would be indescribly sad and terrible.

The special entitled "Child's Play: Privilege, Power, and Preschool" was of course filmed by Martin Bashir of Michael Jackson notoriety. Read about it here and cringe.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

I say, f*ck 'em 

I thought this Babycenter article was great about how not to pressure yourself to being a "perfect" parent, and thus making yourself miserable in the interim. Who cares what others think anyway? It ties into my post about how striving to be a "good enough" parent will save your sanity.

Monday, May 01, 2006


How cool is this - old friends from my Poland days visited after 14 years! They had Peet's coffee for the first time ever; they'd never heard of it. A customer looked inquisitively at them and asked - "Where have YOU been??"