Kids Extreme Ownership

We recently discussed the value of establishing accountability partners in our lives and that one of the most reliable partners you can find are children. If you tell a kid something is a certain way, they will behave as if that information is correct until you give them a reason to believe something else. I have a friend who works with kids who once said, “Given the proper resources, kids will act in their own best interests 90% of the time.” I think the same could be true for adults, but we must first eliminate excuses and examine those resources.

Let’s start by letting your kids off the hook. If we take a snapshot of your day as a parent and recorded your rest, your meals, your schedule, your workflow, and the amount of time you spent moving, I could show you that your kids are not to blame for anything that didn’t go your way. If your cupboard is full of tempting snacks, you have to ask who put them there. If the TV was too loud while you were trying to sleep, we need to establish who made the rules about screen-time. I’m confident that none of us has handed our car keys and wallet over to the kindergartener in our life and said, “Take care of the shopping for me.” Ask your kids if they want to watch Frozen (again) or go for a long walk, and you’re probably going to have “Let It Go” stuck in your head for a week. None of those decisions are their fault. Given the proper resources, kids will make the best decisions. So, if the best decisions aren’t being made, we have to look at the resources.

I hear parents say that they make two meals, let their kids use a tablet, and let them sleep in their bed every night of the week in the name of a peaceful household. They then tell me in the same breath that their food costs are high, they have a hard time engaging their children, and haven’t had a good night of rest all week. The hard truth is that they only have themselves to blame. It’s okay to give your kids a choice. In fact, it’s a great teaching tool. Instead of the choice between pizza and something healthy, let’s ask them if they’d rather have grilled chicken or salmon. Instead of choosing between time on the Xbox and time at the park, let’s ask them if they’d rather walk or ride to the park.

As a parent, the consequences of your decisions are double. You feel the impact of a bad night of sleep and you teach your kid a habit that will be hard to break. If the snacks in the fridge are bad for you, why are they okay for your kids? You can rescue your kids from your bad habits, or guarantee that they perpetuate them in adulthood.

Let’s revisit the Success Cycle. We believe something, then we act on the potential of that belief. We then see the results of that action which gives us a new belief. The cycle works externally as well. You teach your kids a value set. They act in accordance with your actions and begin to expect more of the same. Their expectations drive you to respond, which reaffirms the idea you gave them. If that premise is true, you can put it to work in a number of positive ways. Involve your kids in the decision-making process once you’ve eliminated the undesirable elements. When you make the grocery list, ask them for their favorite veggies. At bed time, ask them which book they want to read in their bed. Taking those measures preserves your diet, your rest, and your sanity. More importantly, it demonstrates great habits to your kids. Ask yourself this question: Are my kids going to benefit from my example, or have to overcome it? If you’re unsure, look no further than your own childhood. What was modeled for you? What lessons did you have to learn on your own? What do you wish you had been shown? What lessons have made the most impact?

If you establish the underpinning for your kids’ victories, I promise you will win as well. Putting your kids first isn’t a sacrifice because by doing so you’re also ensuring rest, health, and joy in your own life. Instead of blaming our kids when our day hasn’t gone well, let’s credit them for being great accountability partners. In turn, let’s give them a reason to thank us for setting the right example.