Management and Parenting: Making It Work   5 comments

Our electronic tether has become shorter and shorter.  I used to train my sales reps that they had 24 hours to return a phone call.  Today, that would seem hopelessly unresponsive.

The average 18-24 year old exchanges about 16 text messages every waking hour according to Pew Research.

A client contacted you?  You had better respond within the hour.  And if you don’t respond within 5 minutes, you may well frustrate your client just as assuredly as you would frustrate a comically insecure girl.  Watch “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days” if you need a refresher on what happens when you are unresponsive to a person of the opposite sex (and it’s a good romantic comedy as well).

HOWEVER, what’s good for your professional life is anathema to your personal life.  I believe you should have 1 appointment and 1 rule for your family every day.  Every day.

Every single day.

1. Your family should eat together every evening.  That’s difficult with a baby, of course, and it’s difficult with a teenager.  But you need to make it happen every possible day.  It doesn’t matter if you are doing home cooking (though that is great — even if you are a lousy cook like me).  It does matter that you sit down as a family and break bread as a family.  Work schedules will interfere; high school activities will as well.  Do your best:  eat together absolutely as often as possible.

2. Electronic devices are not allowed.  No television, no cellphones.  No one answers their phone while at the dinner table.  A musical background is recommended:  music is good for the soul.  But no cellphones.  No text messages. No handheld gaming systems. No iPads.  None.

Our family dinners were so good — and yes, Velda’s cooking was so good — that Alley’s # 1 choice for a wedding gift was a cookbook of family recipes. That became a part of her wedding celebration, with recipes contributed by family and friends.  It’s important to build memories with your family.

Normal Rockwell was right: family dinners are important, and not just when turkey is being served.

What’s the purpose of dinner?  Sharing thoughts about your day, your week, your life — with everyone and for everyone.  Young children learn how adults think.  Adults learn how teenagers think.  And that’s good for every member of your family.  The benefits accrue gradually, over years.  Share a laugh, share an idea, share your life.

I was struck last weekend by a young boy exiting a very nice restaurant with his family.  He was so engrossed in his video game that he couldn’t see to walk out of the restaurant.  He bumped into strangers.  He bumped into hard objects like chairs and walls.  What did Mom do?  She caught up to him, grabbed his head, and steered him between the obstacles so he wouldn’t lose his place in his game.

What did he learn?  Mom would be in charge and it didn’t matter what he did: he could be remote, unengaged and rude.  Doesn’t that sound like a wonderful future employee?  Husband?  Father?

What did Mom learn?  That her son needs her to be in charge, as he’s unable to cope in polite society.  She’s a future helicopter parent, the scourge of teachers and colleges everywhere.

If you have young children, start this today.  If you have older children, start this today.  If your kids are grown up and out of the nest, then begin having an appointment meal at least once a week.

If you’re already doing it, you have my thanks.  If you don’t do this … you’re missing it.

5 responses to “Management and Parenting: Making It Work

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  1. You KNOW how much I agree with this! Seeing that mom steer her son out of the restaurant was just pathetic. Oh and you forgot to mention we still have cookbooks available! 🙂

  2. LOVE this entry! You have talked to me about this since I met you (LONG before I had kids) and I’m happy to say that our family has a nightly appointment, usually with music in the background and always with no electronic devices 🙂

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