Many of us have been called up by survey companies seeking our feedback and opinion on everything from the which political party we prefer, to which fabric softener we use.
We understand that despite the inconvenience of the interruption (often during dinner), it’s actually all about gathering information to help make things better – well, that’s the theory.
As parents, working or otherwise, we all give and receive feedback on a multitude of tasks, everyday. We become used to it, and some of us even get very good at it.
But in our other big job, the one that directly impacts the people we love most in the world, do we seek feedback on how we are going as parents, so that we can improve?
But one day I did; I asked my kids for feedback.
Before this, I just trundled along being a parent and hoping I was doing OK.
The key word was HOPE. I didn’t know; not really.
I figured I was doing okay if the kids were happy. My measurable or ‘KPI’ (key performance indicator) was “is my child alive and happy?” A reasonable measure, but not brilliant. Certainly it wouldn’t stand up as a KPI in the corporate world!
I knew I wanted to be a better parent to my kids. In fact, I wanted to be the best parent I could be. Deep down, I knew that hope alone was not really cutting it.
One afternoon I sat the boys down, and simply explained I wanted to be the best parent I could be to them. They nodded. I then explained, I wanted their feedback.
The specific questions I asked were;
- Do you feel that we have fun in our family?
- Do you feel safe with me?
- Do you feel relaxed with me?
- Do you feel the freedom to be yourself?
- Do you feel I support you in being yourself?
- Do you feel that I have time for you?
- That I am sensitive to your needs?
- That I spend time with you?
As they thought about each question very seriously, I practiced my best active listening. I really wanted to hear their answers. I needed to hear them.
After due consideration, the boys confirmed they felt positive on all these, but had some requests.
The older (then 8 year old) requested less yelling, and asked if we could have a board game night every now and then.
The younger (then 5 year old) requested more time just playing together.
Immediately I had incredibly valuable feedback and a clear set of actions to ensure my kids were happy.
I simply had to ensure we all played more, and yelled less!
But it WAS simple, and I could do that.
I took action on both requests straightaway. I wrote an intention statement about using my calm voice and avoiding yelling, dated and signed it and stuck it up where all could see it. By making it visible, I was holding myself accountable (and everyone else in the family would do so too).
Creating more time and space for playing was more challenging, at least initially when I was still consumed by needing to feel productive and “get stuff done”. The thought, “The days are long but the years are short” reminded me that I was very fortunate to spend time playing with my children – there would be a time not too far away where they wouldn’t want to play anymore, and certainly not with me.
The direct result of this feedback, and taking action on it, meant our family played more and had more fun together. As we had more fun together, we all felt happier, so the yelling decreased too.
The often quoted saying is “happy wife, happy life”. But I would also add, “happy parent, happy kids”.