The Business of Family
Ilana Kukoff and Sarah Lopano
The families that Cognition Builders supports are often titans in their industry. They know how to create a successful business, but are frequently at a loss when it comes to their families. Cognition Builders puts family life into the perspective of business, to help our clients understand how to get the returns that they want on their family life.
We teach parents that successful families, just like a business, do not just happen overnight. You have to be intentional and effortful to get what you want and what’s in the best interest of your family. Of course, success is going to look different for each family, but we can all agree that happy, healthy kids with whom you have a loving relationship, is the foundation that families strive for. If you want your kids to be close to you when they’re adults, the foundation for those future relationships begins now.
As the CEO of your family, you have to take charge. Let’s begin by setting aside a weekend to get your family organized, using these steps as your guide.
- Set Goals. Cognition Builders has a curriculum for this and it begins by identifying what your wish list is for your family. What does a successful morning look like to you? Is it breakfast, sharing what you have on the agenda for the day? Is it sharing a problem you’re facing and want to get your kids' input on? If we want our teens and younger children to be thinkers we need to expose them to age-appropriate material and get their input. Respect goes both ways and we can’t have deep meaningful relationships without it. While this is an example of what we do, you can do this on your own.
- Create expectations. Every member of your family — parents, and kids — should have a clear role. What is their job as a member of the family and how will they get it done? The roles for our kids should be centered around learning, being social, and helping. Think about this in terms of an employee. The more clear their job description is, the more likely they are to succeed. In addition, there need to be clear contingencies for when your kids do or don’t do their job. Think about it, if you don’t work, your compensation goes out the window; that’s the natural consequence. There needs to be a natural, appropriate consequence for your teen too. For example: let’s say your teen is responsible for unloading the dishwasher and doesn’t do it. An appropriate consequence would be that they aren’t allowed to use any of the dishes to eat on until their job is done. Always make sure no one is completing your child’s job for them. These small micro-responsibilities create the foundation for larger responsibilities when they live on their own.
- Identify your resources. Our three primary resources in business and in life are our skill sets, our time, and our money. And just like in a business, these resources are scarce. Consider the resources of all caretakers: parents, grandparents, teachers, nannies, coaches — anyone in the position to help your child grow and develop. Think about which goals need the most resources to be accomplished, which are your priorities, and what can be done with the resources you have available. If you hire a nanny, tutor, or other help in the home, ask them to provide daily or weekly, as Cognition Builders provides, so you know exactly what’s happening in your home and where you may need to make changes. You wouldn’t allow one of your employees to go without metrics, would you?
- Allocate your resources. Schedule specific, focused time for each member of the family to work toward their goals. Maybe you block an hour on Tuesdays to take your daughter to the park and help her practice social skills. Maybe you schedule 30 minutes every Saturday for alone time with your spouse. Maybe you sign your son up for piano lessons. Whatever your goals are, allocate and define which resources will be used to reach them. Don’t allow your family to drop the ball. Commit to something and follow through with it for at least 3 months, so you can truly determine whether it’s working or not.
- Establish structure. Kids do best when they know their days are predictable. Every child, even the ones who want to be left alone, needs structure. Now that you have scheduled in time for your biggest priorities, you can create daily routines, and schedules around the “must-dos”. Use family google calendars. Post these routines and schedules around the house. Find a system that works for your family so everyone is on the same page, and stick to it. Sticking to something requires oversight each day. If you cannot do it, talk with your partner or other caregivers about doing it. Don’t leave things to happenstance or they won’t happen.
- Preparation. As parents, when we come home from a long day of work we often just want to relax and wind down. We’re so tired from our day that it is hard to give of ourselves to our family. To help ease this strain, have a plan for exactly what you will do so that it feels less overwhelming. Have topics of conversation that you’re going to talk to your kids about, a plan for tackling dinner chores, bedtime routines, and how you are going to respond to difficult behaviors. Preparation is the antidote to feeling overwhelmed.
- Follow through. Maintain the structure and schedules you created. Follow them each and every day — consistency truly is key! You can’t judge the efficacy of something without doing it each and every day. It isn’t fair to say something doesn’t work unless you’ve done it all the time with intention and follow-through. Remember you and your family are learning a new group of skills together and that takes time to generalize and sustain itself. Check back on your goals regularly. Use metrics to keep a log of progress for objective data. If you’re not making progress, problem solve! Work with your family to make changes so that you are moving the needle.
As with anything business or family-related, this is often easier said than done. Some steps may come naturally to you, while others feel artificial and forced. It can feel uncomfortable at first to use a list of conversation starters to engage with your teen. But what this does is teach you to go deeper with your relationship. The structure of routine may feel rigid, but it establishes consistency. And once you do it for a while it will become second nature to you and your family
With time, what once felt forced will become a habit and you will see the returns on your investment. Your family will flourish.
Cognition Builders is an educational company that places Family Architects in the home to help implement tailored curricula to establish structure and change language and behavior in real-time. We are teaching parents the ins and outs of running a successful family so that they can focus on love, enjoyment, and connection.