If you have school-age children, you probably know that Stephen Covey’s “7 Habits” series has been modified and monetized for youngsters.
Close to 1,500 elementary schools are using “The Leader in Me” series, The Associated Press reports, which spells out seven mini-mottos for students.
I’m a fan of anything I can bark out during times of duress, particularly if my kids associate the directives with their teachers — grown-ups they actually listen to, that is.
I’ve been known to pull out back-to-back “habits” in the aisles of Target.
Kids: Legos! DVDs! An Xbox! Candy! We need it all! Please, can we have it all now?
Me: Begin with the end in mind, guys! If I buy that stuff now, what will you put on your birthday lists?
Kids: We can’t wait! We want it now! Please, can we have it all now?
Me: Think win-win, guys! If I buy that stuff now, I can’t buy groceries. We all need groceries!
Kids: What is wrong with you? We are being very clear with our requests and you are not honoring them! Let’s start from the beginning! Legos! DVDs! ...
This is usually when we run into a parent from my daughter’s gymnastics school, who makes a mental note to reject any and all future play-date requests from us.
It’s occurring to me that the habits may work better if I apply them to my own behavior, rather than directing them at other people. Which is why I’ve decided, at the dawn of a new school year, to embrace each of Covey’s steps.
Here they are, translated for easy parental adoption.
Habit 1: “Be Proactive (You’re in Charge).” This is definitely the hardest for me. Case in point: My daughter asked to stop at Walgreens on the way to camp the other day. What’s the most ridiculous part of her request: That there’s nothing she could possibly need for camp at Walgreens? That we are, without fail, already 15 minutes late by the time we leave the house? Or that, despite the previous two facts, I took her to Walgreens anyway? And then proceeded to whine and huff about her making us late? You decide. (See? There I go surrendering my authority again.)
Habit 2: “Begin With the End in Mind (Have a Plan).” Noted child psychologist Wendy Mogel once asked me if we have trouble getting to school on time. Of course we do, I told her. I blame traffic: Some mornings we leave at 7:45 and get there by 8. Other mornings we leave at 7:45 and sit on the Kennedy for 30 minutes. “Why not leave at 7:30?” she suggested. I had no words.
Habit 3: “Put First Things First (Work First, Then Play).” I’m already good at this one. I wish I were less good at this one.
Habit 4: “Think Win-Win (Everyone Can Win).” Especially if everyone goes to bed. Too often I look at bedtime as a defeat for my kids — the sorrowful end of playtime, story time, snack time — so I push it later and later. But more rest for them means more rest for me, and few things sound more winning than rest.
Habit 5: “Seek First to Understand, Then To Be Understood (Listen Before You Talk).” In other words, stop greeting my kids after school with so many questions. “How was school? Who did you sit with at lunch? Was Rachel still sick? Did you turn in your permission slip? Are your new shoes comfortable? What day is the book fair?”
Habit 6: “Synergize (Together Is Better).” Too often I try to divide and conquer my loved ones: Husband time! Daughter time! Son time! Friends time! Never enough time! It’s good to remember that time with my kids is still time with my kids, even if other people join us.
Habit 7: “Sharpen the Saw (Balance Feels Best).” That’s for sure. Which is why I’ll count it as a victory if I succeed at these habits 50 percent of the time and fail the other half. That’s balance, right?