• inaki

Every player is the most important player on the field

Choose the rules of the game before the match. A dōjō Practice with Hazel Swayne.

“Stop bothering your brother.” “Brush your teeth!” “Time to get ready for bed.” “Go do your schoolwork.” And the most used one “Get off your device, NOW.” These can typically be followed by “if you don’t <insert whatever directive you are given your kids here> I will take <whatever they like most> away.”

Just from writing these, I get so tired! Can you imagine if futbol players had to be reminded of the rules during every match?

We used to be the best "referee" parents in the world. Until one day, out of preservation and desperation, we realized it was time to flip things. To flip the way cause-and-effect was being lived in our family. The relationship with our kids had mainly become a powers-game where no one won. We were the “bosses” - the jerk kind, and they were the poor kids who knew nothing and had to be told and reminded of what was needed and the punishment of not doing those mandates. While our parents loved us dearly, we were also raised like this. Threatened, yelled at, which created a feeling of I am not empowered to make my own choices. And you see? Choice is one of the two magical words here. We finally realized we were robbing our children from their most important and defining right; the right to make their own choices.

Why? Because like most parents we believed they were not capable. The second magical word is relationships, the only thing we will regret when we are on our deathbed is the relationships we didn’t nurture. And believe it or not, being the parents that tell our kids what to do all day was not building strong relationships, on the contrary, these acts of what we thought parenting meant were actually deteriorating any possibility of creating unbreakable relationships.

Why? Because the relationship was based on what should be rather than on respect and leadership.

I work designing and delivering leadership programs for senior executives for many companies around the world. Where I preach that the servant leader is the best type of leader there is. I steer our students to foster and develop a growth mindset. I predicate learning by doing left and right. Yet, at home, with my children, I was not applying any of these transformative mental models.

Why? Simply because I never stopped to think for a moment what would be most beneficial to our relationship. I didn’t think they would be capable of being raised in any other way than my already programmed behaviors. I never questioned whether a different approach could make our lives more harmonious. I was parenting on autopilot!

This dojo Practice is about an approach to leading kids that not only includes them but also respects their ability to make choices, define consequences, and live by them as part of a team. Removing us as the referees on the field during the match and creating space to build stronger relationships with our children.

Why? Because the game of life is too short.


60 minutes to 2 hours
Everyone in your family

Process (highly inspired by Acton Academy and Becca Phillips)

Collaborate as a team to create your family core essence. You can think of these as mantras or credos. 
Step 1.
Define your First Things First. These are the things you, as a team, agree are BASIC to be able to co-live. From chores to attitude and behaviors. These become you contract, which the parents and kids sign.

Step 2.
Ideate (together) the different freedom levels. From the names to what you get in each level, to how you get to those levels and even how you lose automatic freedoms based on choices.
You can use dotmocracy for this (using markers to vote)
-Be pessimistic, do not add tooo many things at first.

Important to note: Consequences for each kid is different. So we have added a combination of these to the lowest freedom levels. You will see NO SCHOOL for a day is there. This, we have discovered is the biggest consequence -they call it Jail- for our 2 oldest girls. You need to explore what "jail" looks like for your own.

Step 3.
Agree, try it, and be kind to the fact that it is a new process for everyone so going easy at first is key.

Step 4.Invite the kids to define the process and structure to keep track and stick to it. Our kids used an app online to shuffle chores and each gets assigned responsibilities. 

Be firm and kind when they make bad choices. Remind them they committed to these freedom levels and that your role is to support them in the journey not to punish or to direct. 
Always invite growth mindset cnversations:
Not yet
You are learning 
I believe in your abilities 
What can you learn from this?
How is this helping your relationship?
Who can help you? 
I admire your bravery (or insert any word that highlights growth behavior) 
Ask, instead of assuming, How can I help you?

Inspiring links
Growth mindset
Servan Leadership
Value Proposition Canvas (we use the pains, gains, and pain killers portions with our family) 
Feedback (to continously improve and not be "done")
Psychological safety The ability to take risks on this team without feeling insecure or embarrassed
Integrated Model of Group Development: 4 stages (creating effective teams book)

dōjō STREAM lessons related to this post:  Raising autonomous children (and trusting parents) with Iñaki and Hazel

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