Freya Sherlock Lic. Ac, BSc Hons level TCM/CHM is a practitioner of Chinese medicine in West Cork. She is equally passionate about the nourishment of childhood. She co-founded and co-managed The Little School 1995-2005, facilitates the Parent Plus programme in collaboration with HSE and Dunmanway Family Resource Centre, trained in Early Years Steiner education and with Dr Tony Humphries at UCC but her four children have been and continue to be her finest teachers! She has is currently initiating WildChild Outdoor Education. For further info: 086 1273148
Raising children in the modern world presents some interesting challenges. Perhaps we feel children are growing up more quickly and with a savvy that we might not recall ourselves having? While a tad unnerving to be outwitted by our young, is that not just a sign of healthy evolution? Perhaps yes. Truly effective evolution however, needs to be rounded and balanced, so let’s just keep a watchful eye that we’re not leaving behind precious aspects of the childhood experience along the way. After all, there is little point in becoming an intellectually brilliant and technologically advanced race if all that makes us uniquely human is lost along the way.
In our daily lives working, raising kids, running a home, family, business or whatever it is that we do, it is useful to bear in mind The Leadership Triangle of Task – Process – Relationship. While this is a model more commonly applied to managing conflict in corporate, business and group life, I have found that in my work with parents, bringing their attention to keeping this triad in balance is often a powerful tool for positive change in their family dynamics.
In the developed First World, we tend towards being very Task and Goal orientated. Arguably, the developed world might not be so developed were it not for such an overriding commitment to such achievement. However, in being so focussed on The Task we can, in the process, become slaves to it and sacrifice ourselves and our relationships on the altar of The Task as a result. In raising children however, where is the goal? What does it look like? Where is the end-point? Is there even an end-point?
The deal is that Task, Process and Relationship are all present in everything that we do. What changes is the proportionate importance we place on one element over the others at any given time. It is an entirely fluid, constantly changing equation and we need to be deft and attentive to adapt and shift our emphasis as appropriate, ideally keeping all three in relative and harmonious balance.
Let’s take a look at how this triad might play out in family life with a common bone of contention: the housework. Without inviting gender wars, let’s just imagine for a moment that Mum has decided the place needs a major tidy up, that the laws of entropy have brought about the inevitable degeneration of order and the results are an unholy sight to behold. To take a Task-only orientated stance, she might seize the hoover and stand, as one armed for combat on the frontline and taking one look at her fellow troops deeply engrossed in their laptops, iPads, iPhones and PlayStations, decide their participation is either unlikely or unskilful and charge forwards to do battle alone. Half an hour later, having only conquered a tiny island in the face of a nation to be seized, she starts to feel a little war-weary and resentful towards her idle comrades. With an air of ‘The task, the task, my kingdom for the task’, the General in her rises to start barking commands, issuing orders, yelling threats, assassinating their character and making it thoroughly known that it’s ‘shape up or ship out’ time.
Meanwhile, the mutinous troops, so absorbed in their own worlds, look up fleetingly and regard the wailing banshee in their midst with mild interest, perhaps even contempt and seek ground cover till the air raid is over at which point, the remaining survivors lick their wounds and survey the scene from the respective corners to which they’ve all retreated. It’s a familiar story.
Now let’s replay the scene putting Relationship and Process into the equation. So there’s domestic carnage and you know what honey, as long as you have a home with young children in it, domestic carnage will be lapping at your shores always. That ‘is’ the Law of Entropy. What if, instead of treating it as a beast to be heroically beaten and tamed single handedly, we shift our attention to seeing it as an opportunity to nurture Relationship and foster a more enjoyable family culture around the Process. It’s not that we forsake or neglect the Task, simply that we right the balance in the triad.
It’s Friday night, the end of a working week and the house is a tip. Does it have to be done right now, when everyone’s tired? Will a few more hours of stepping over the kid’s creative chaos really matter? Sometimes, yes, it does matter. But equally, sometimes, it doesn’t and it’s on these occasions that we can trial a new approach. Be the change you want to see happen. So instead, how about waiting till the morning when everyone’s refreshed, make a cracking batch of delicious pancakes, lay a breakfast table as if it were a special occasion and hold a strategic meeting while you’ve a captive audience as to how you’re going to collectively skin this particular cat. It’s not a case of ‘if’, but in ‘what way’, everyone is going to play their part, right down to the youngest capable member. Remember too, skills need to be learned, so don’t assume that just because you know what you mean by ‘cleaning the bathroom’ that your 10 year-old will have the foggiest idea. Rome wasn’t built in a day and incorporating Relationship and Process into the equation often takes more time, but the result is ultimately, infinitely more rewarding and successful. At the very least, you trade one person cleaning for five hours against five people cleaning for one hour; it’s a no-brainer. You can celebrate the time won by doing something more fun together afterwards. At best, you’ll discover that actually, when you cultivate Relationship and Process that that, in and of itself, is a whole pile of fun regardless of the Task at hand. So crank up some upbeat energising music, create an atmosphere of team spirit, keep some special food and drink on the go to replenish the gang and make it your task to role-model cheerful, good-natured, easy going but conscientious work ethic. You might be surprised at just how enjoyable building Rome can be. Happy days.