Parenting – An Endless Quality Improvement Cycle

jump zone

Landing zone of every pillow in the house, effectively blocking the front door

Lately I’ve been contemplating some of my extraordinarily ineffective means of parenting. I mean, I’m particularly effective in letting them bounce around the house in underwear as often as they’d like; empty all the Tupperware onto the floor and “feed” each other bowls of milk as “puppies,” and stack all the pillows at the bottom of the step to land from sliding down the stairs on a toddler mattress.

But I’m amazingly ineffective on a wide range of issues. Eliminating swear words from my eldest son’s vocabulary is driving me absolutely nuts, for instance. I’ve attempted rewards, punishments, endless grounding, extra chores, “paying” me all of his saved up money, and even washing his mouth with soap. Yes, everything.

I’ve realized recently that parenting is a Quality Improvement Cycle taken to the nth degree. You just never get anywhere. Plan, Do, Check, Act….didn’t work…. Plan, Do, Check, Act ….didn’t work…repeat.

PDCA-Multi-Loop

Take for example, the very simple act of getting out the door to go to school:

  • Plan – We need to leave at 8:40 for school. I’ll start getting the boys ready at 8:15.
  • Do – “Boys, get your socks and shoes on.”
  • Check – Nope….not a single one has responded
  • Act – Recognize the lack of progress and move to next iteration

Next iteration:

  • Plan – yell louder
  • Do – “BOYS, I SAID SHOES and SOCKS NOW!”
  • Check – Nada
  • Act – “I mean it, let’s go!”

Really?!?!

  • Plan – put a consequence on it
  • Do – “Boys, if you don’t get your shoes and socks on right now, you’ll have a time out in your room after school.”
  • Check – one out of 3 has one out of 2 socks on
  • Act – raise blood pressure by 5 points

As noted, “A fundamental principle of the scientific method and PDCA is iteration—once a hypothesis is confirmed (or negated), executing the cycle again will extend the knowledge further. Repeating the PDCA cycle can bring us closer to the goal, usually a perfect operation and output.”

However, one must realize that while “iteration” certainly applies to parenting, repeating the cycle does not necessarily move you closer to the goal of “a perfect operation.” It tends to move you closer to insanity and glasses of wine, but rarely closer to perfection. You might, however, get close enough to approximating your goal that you are able to leave the house:

“Check:”

  • Super Tall Guy appears to have on shoes without socks, one shoe tied and one hopelessly knotted
  • Mr. Ornery has boots on and as he does not have “phys ed” on his school schedule today, I’ll let this slide
  • The Little Guy has found shoes, they are on the wrong feet, but as that is his “norm” about 98.4% of the time, we are OUT the DOOR!

Now, back to planning my next attack on the sailor mouth issue….

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