PracticalDad Solution:  The Details Sheet

Doing things and having fun comes naturally to kids, but other areas like time management and thinking things through don’t come so naturally.  This is precisely why I’ve draftedand instituted the Details Sheet.

Kids are generally self-absorbed and egocentric, so not only do they NOT think through their own details, they won’t consider anybody else’s details either.  This is what drove me over the edge the other evening as plans were formulated and reformulated with no realization that the lack of drivers’ licenses meant that Dad would have to be formally involved.  When I required that these carefully – at least what two teens consider carefully – laid plans be re-laid with some foot in reality, the sparks flew.

The basis for time management in the PracticalDad household is the family calendar, which I assiduously maintain during the school year.  With the summer schedule, I haven’t been as attentive and have mistakenly thought that they’d be old enough to update some of their own activities.  Eldest will circle a date in crayon and list the time for a babysitting gig but there’s no info as to where and for whom and the rest is merely white space.  I realized this after the blow-up, which means that I bear some responsibility for the situation and can’t just peg it on a couple of teenagers.

The intent of the Details Sheet is simple and isn’t meant to automatically say no to a kid’s request although there’s going to be some thought that that is indeed the case.  The intent is to simply force the kids to examine the details and how their request fits into the greater scheme of the family activities – to make them think beyond themselves so to speak.  The questions are journalistically straightforward – what, where, when, with whom, transported how – and are supplemented by the question about what else is on the family calendar.  Going forward, any request that I receive will be met with another question as to whether the sheet’s questions have been answered.  When all of the questions are answered and everything makes sense, then I’ll probably say yes to the request and make certain that it makes the calendar, preferably following up that they did it.

The reality of any family system is that its effectiveness hinges  upon the ability of the parents to uphold and maintain the system.  That means several things:

  • When the system is rolled out, I can’t appear torqued – even though that’s what prompted the response – or it will be viewed as punitive and resisted;
  • I have to consider what questions they’ll pose when they learn of the system and digest it;
  • I have to be consistent in referring everything back to the sheet;
  • It’s my responsibility to assure that the calendar is still updated even though I want the kids to do it;
  • I have to realize that the calendar’s going to be messier as the older kids get used to updating it and will have to stay calm enough to handle things as educational when we discuss correcting the calendar.

The last item will be key.  If the intent is to have the kids working in tandem and considering others, then it’s my responsibility to follow through for as long as it takes.  And how long is that?  As long as necessary until my wife and I are comfortable that they’ve got the basics down and can routinely bring us the necessary information on which to make a decision.

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