Rabu, 13 Juni 2018

#HowToRaiseAHuman with Agile Parenting

First of all, why English? That's because I want to participate in NPR's "How To Raise A Human" series. I know that I've committed to blog in Indonesian to maximize my impact in the majority of my audience, but the hashtag #HowToRaiseAHuman is quite tempting. So, to accommodate both needs, I'll be writing in English for this post and I'll write the Indonesian version in my next post. Insyaa Allaah.

Let's get started.

This blog post is meant to answer a good question: "What's the one thing you wish someone had told you before you became a parent?" This question intrigued me because during my "transformation" efforts in the last few months, I was asking a similar question to myself: "What do I need to know to become a better parent and a better husband?" or "What do I need to do to become a better parent and a better husband?" Apparently Agile parenting has some of the answers I needed.

Work of a group of participants in one of my Agile trainings
I come across Agile a couple of years ago in my work. I work in the IT field, specifically in software development. For me, understanding and implementing Agile is a must. It's not some fancy high-level term or just another hype. It's actually a new mind set and a new way of working that focuses on creating working products (instead of comprehensive documentation) through collaborating with customers (instead of relying on documents and agreements), responding to required changes (instead of sticking to a single plan), and improving involved individuals and their interactions (instead of highly relying on processes and tools). However, it was not until I watched Bruce Feiler's TED talk that I realize that Agile is also applicable to run my family.

To be honest, no matter how exciting Bruce's talk was, it was still way too technical because he was already talking about techniques to implement Agile parenting. I understand that these techniques are important, but I prefer to start with the set of values, i.e. the manifesto. In my opinion, understanding the values allows us to really understand what Agile is all about while going ahead with techniques might mislead us to think that Agile is limited to these techniques. Thus, I embark on a journey, i.e. googling, to understand more about Agile parenting and stumbled upon Geof Lory's Agile Parenting Manifesto. Unfortunately, after reading, and re-reading, the manifesto, I find it was a bit too complex for me.

The Agile Parenting Manifesto
Being Agile should be simple. At least, it should start simple. As in Agile for software development, simplicity should be essential. So, I decided to put together my own version of the Agile Parenting Manifesto.
My Agile family

Agile Parenting Manifesto

We are uncovering better ways of raising children and forming families by doing it and helping other parents do it. Through this work we have come to value:

happiness over grades and achievements
responding to changes over following a parenting plan
children collaboration over rewards and punishments negotiation
parents, children, and interactions over parenting styles and rules

That is, while there is value in the items on the right, we value the items on the left more.

Quite easy to comprehend, no?

Happiness, for both children and parents, should be the primary measurements of success in raising children and forming families. Happiness is much more important than grades, achievements, or other measurements of success. It's even more important than success itself. How important is happiness? Try watching Nadine Burke Haris' talk about the negative impact of adverse childhood experience and Julie Lythcott-Haims' talk about raising successful kids by focusing on making them happy. They put together the importance of happiness remarkably well.

To achieve happiness, we should be responsive to changes inside the family, children and parents alike. New experience, new needs, new environment, new jobs, and all new things coming in the future should be responded accordingly. A parenting plan, i.e. the plan that we as parents have been making our entire life to guarantee the future of our children, is a good start, but strictly sticking to that plan might not be a good idea. Expecting our plan to always keep up with the coming changes might put a lot of burden to us and our children. Thus, being responsive is the way to go. Change our plan according to the changes that pops up in our life.

To be responsive, we should start with understanding the changes. To understand, we should start with listening to children. This is assuming that we have already opened our ears to our spouse. Having our children collaborate with us to determine the path for our family might result in better behavior and less stress for the whole family compared to keeping up with rewards and punishments. By having the kids say what's inside their mind and heart, we can come to understand what really suits the needs of our family. Thus, we can respond accordingly.

What's also important are the individuals inside the family and their interactions. Isn't that what collaboration is about? Not necessarily. There's a chance that we collaborate with all the family members, but when it comes to making decisions and doing what's required, we left out our children. With Agile parenting, children are empowered. Making decisions, to a certain point, should include votes from the children. Doing what's required should involve the children according to the best of their capacity. Interactions is a key point in making such involvement or empowerment feasible. We can still use certain parenting styles or set up certain rules in our household and let the children follow them. However, involving all family members in the process builds a higher sense of belonging and accountability.

The Agile Techniques

Our family in Habitica
Now that we got the basics figured out, we can move on to techniques. A board, possibly with post-its, containing tasks or goals, do we need it? Yes; to visualize our current plan on what defines our happiness and how we should achieve them. There are also other alternatives to this board. My favorite is the life gamification app called Habitica. Rewards and punishments, do we need them? Yes; to make our children take the family plan more seriously. Styles Weekly meetings, do we need them? Yes; to accommodate collaboration on creating the family plan and modifying it as needed. Daily meetings, do we need them? Yes; to accommodate interactions and to respond against emerging changes. The list goes on.

In choosing these "Agile" techniques, be sure to understand each of their purpose. If a technique doesn't meet any purpose, it's safe to discard it no matter how many parents are using it. If a technique is required to implement any of the manifesto, and it's not going to be a burden, then by all means, use it even if no one in this world uses it. One Agile parent might use different techniques from another Agile parent. That is normal because techniques highly depends on the circumstances and the condition of the family; values don't. As long as we share the same values, we're doing the "same" Agile parenting.

The Positive Impact

One of my son's weekly projects (it's a brick table rack)
At the time of writing this blog post, I'm already in my 4th months of doing Agile parenting. I signed up myself and two of my sons in Habitica. My wife refused saying it was not her style. Oh, well. Nevertheless, we put our plans, tasks, rewards, punishments, and everything we could think of in Habitica. We're doing the weekly meetings to discuss what went well in the past week and what should we do in the next week. We're doing the daily meetings to check on our tasks. Okay, I'll be honest. We're doing the daily meetings to play on Habitica so that we know how many damage, experience, gold, and items that we get in the last 24 hours. Fun! We might add more techniques as our Agile family understand more of who we are and what we need, but for now, it's just Habitica and the meetings.

How does it really impact my family life? My children are taking more responsibility with their tasks. This is probably to avoid taking heavy damage in Habitica. Fortunately, they're doing those tasks because they want to, not just because I want them to. They're also more aware of the future, at least one week ahead. They realize that what they're doing are important. Parenting has also been less stressful. At the very least, it's less scolding and anger. Whenever something goes wrong, we go to Habitica to enforce any required punishments. I postponed my "lectures" until the daily meeting or even the weekly meeting where the situation is calmer. Not only were those lectures more concise and fair, it seems my children were also better at digesting what I said because it's less clouded with emotion. The children also got the opportunity to voice their opinion; and defense.

In all, it's been great. I'm seeing great improvements in our relationship and communication as a family. I guess Agile parenting works for me and my family. I am still learning though. I still spend some time to read articles, books, and watch videos about parenting. I believe there's still plenty of room for improvements. The only regret I have right now is that I wish I knew about this before I became a parent or at least right after I'm doing Agile in my work. That could definitely save a lot of work, time, and stress.

2 komentar:

  1. masih raise kucing..
    belum raise human being :[

    1. Ikuti terus serial #AgileParenting ini ya, Mas. Akan tiba waktunya saat ilmu ini terpakai. :D