Q&A With Author: “Agile Kids – Who’s the Boss of Me” (for Agile@Home)

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By Shirly Ronen-Harel,                                                                      square-linkedin-128      square-twitter-128      website

Shirly Ronen-Harel  is a coach and consultant in Agile / Lean methods. She is the author of the ‘Agile Kids – Who’s the Boss of Me’ and ‘The coaching Booster” books and she is currently writing her new book.


What inspired you to write this book “Agile Kids- Who’s the Boss of Me”?

product_thumbnailFew years a go I got divorced, and I  certainly had to go through some major adaptation processes. “I had two small children, a divorcee who had to restart everything from scratch. The children were exposed to this tension”, she says. “I had to find a new apartment, get organized for a great deal of tasks, one of the most important and challenging ones being the children.

At the time I was working for a high-tech company, and the more I implemented Agile in the organization I noticed the examples I was using were from the family world. When I taught a manager to set boundaries I told him, ‘Think like a parent, there are some boundaries you won’t cross: You’ll always have your kid wearing a seat belt in the safety seat even if he screams, but you will let him choose what to wear in the morning.’ Or, for example, when you want to give your child a sense of growth, you won’t start by immediately giving him the toughest task – doing his math homework by himself. You’ll start small, give him a good feeling of capability.”

I fell in love with the methodology and today I works as an Agile coach. The book I wrote together with Dany (Danko) Kovatch, entitled Agile Kids – Who’s the boss of me, was published in digital format in English, Hebrew, Spanish and Italian. The Translation of book in Russian and Hindi Languages are in progress. Buy the Book

Is “Agile Kids” book based on “Agile Manifesto”?

Obviously agile application at home with families and kids should have its own manifesto, after all home is not software development . as such, you may find in chapter 315 of  “Agile Kids” the our manifesto,

Here’s an example:

agile at home

Here’s an example from some of the principles:

That is, while there is value in the items on the right, we value the items on the left more

  1. Our highest priority is our family and our children. Our children go through childhood once, and we are the ones responsible for it.
  2. We believe that the parent is the key to family growth and should be coached to be the role model for any required changes.
  3. The family must work together as a team in order to enhance its communication, achievements and abilities, including the children regardless of their age.
  4. Visibility and openness is the key to family empowerment.
  5. We believe that fun, rather than ‘serious’ takes us further. Therefore, we will make sure that everything we do will involve the element of fun, although we will insist on making it fit to the spirit of the events.
How this book “Agile Kids” can help parents in being more flexible, less stressful and in progressive parenting? Can you explain it with some example(s)?

Many parents feel their family lives are a complete chaos, they lost control over their kids, and they are constantly operating in a reactive fire-fighting mode. They feel like they have to defend themselves from their kids’ requests. Naturally, their conscience works over time, which can result in some bad decisions that will increase the chaos.

Agile method provides a platform for a flexible and much more organized family environment.

In essence, we simply organize the family discussions in a calmer and controlled time and place. We establish simple house roles such as, daily family conversation – which is the key to a structured daily routine, tone of speech, visualization  taking small steps etc.,  that enable reorganizing and discussing a problem without finger pointing at anybody or any topic as the main contributor to the friction.

Instead of returning home and automatically start complaining and pointing out the things the kids did not do – for example “why did you leave your shoes in the living room; why didn’t you brush your teeth; why didn’t you do your homework; why didn’t you clean up your room” etc.’, with Agile method all assignments are well organized on a white board and discussed over family meeting. All assignments, not only the unfinished ones, but also the ones that were successfully completed, are pointed out. The method creates visibility without marking a certain task or a certain child as problematic. The daily conversation, setting tasks and responsibilities from start to action, allows the parents to conduct the daily routine in a better way, with more control. The responsibility moves to the children, and with simple means like notes, or white board, they start doing the chores. The conversation emphasize the good things rather than the ones that were not carried out.

The daily gathering is the key in this method. It helps in soothing the environment. We are calmly discussing everything instead of being busy with the next thing we need to do. It’s an agreed family gathering that everyone is committed to attend. Trust me, it has an amazing relaxing effect on everybody, directing many things, that otherwise come up as crises, into one legitimate and calm place which is designated for it. Just like at work – when an employee has no place to speak up, he will constantly complain about his problems. Thus, when he gets 1:1 with his superior, he’ll see things in a different perspective, and will wait for his meeting with his manager to bring them up. It reduces chaos and naturally crates a sense of control.

For example, a child who struggles to get ready for bed. Instead of waiting every night for the daily fight, yelling and shouting, and ending up exhausted in the living room, we can use agile method as a family game in order to control and discuss the situation. We’ll transfer the responsibility and power to the child as “part of the deal”. We’ll write down all the tasks for the evening – starting with wearing pajamas, through brushing your teeth, reading a story, etc’. We will create order and to-do list for him. We’ll do it together – ask the child to create the tasks himself, (write or draw then down), put them on the board, and make sure he understands the flow. This will happen with our observation and the right attention for the whole process (not parts of it). The fact that we accompany him on a daily basis, while talking about the things he does, works wonderfully. This is what it’s all about. This magic works. We are there with the kids, and they LOVE having us around, because we give them our full attention in a very focused and positive way, help and teach them (while the kids control the situation). It works wonderfully. We will accompany the child and will go over task by task on the board, from the To Do part, via the making and up until completing his tasks. We will reward him with good words, and we’ll create the next task. It’s important for us to remember to let the child feel he is in charge of the tasks and not us. With time, the “problematic” issues will make room for different and more important issues.

How can “Agile Kids” book help single parents?

No matter if you are a single parent, partners, straight or gay. We all “suffer” from the same things regarding “how can I handle everything I have to do in such short time?” this method enables us to arrange our time in a better way, and also enables the kids to take responsibility over their tasks. It calms and gives us control over things, using communication, which helps every parent. The communication with our kids using the method tools will make the difference and get the job done.

How “Agile Kids” book helps in “empowering kids without losing parenting authority”? Can you describe it with example(s)?

Sometimes it’s much easier for us to tell our kids what to do, rather than let them decide for themselves. When to tidy their room, what’s wrong – instead of telling them how fantastic they are. Instead of feeling success, they just feel failure. When you come home, and just complain about the tasks they didn’t do, you don’t compliment them on the tasks they DID do.

As a parent, I am certain you understand how important it is to create in the children the sense of control in what they do. I am sure there are parents who don’t even like to dwell on the bad things, so the first step will simply be – LET GO. The question is HOW?

In one sentence, we can define empowerment as a process where the one with power (that’ll be you – the parent) gives up some of his power for another (your children), and at the same time he also maintains his limits and authority. This way BOTH sides grow and gain in strength.

In fact, we change from a position of no control, to a position of relative control. The empowerment process strengthens the self-confidence of the one being empowered, in his ability to function, make decisions and complete tasks.

We want to develop a pattern of conversation, and create order and visibility around all the tasks. This opens a place for the family to talk about the tasks – and leaves plenty of room for praise. This feeling helps get things done without the need for the parent to control everything, to point out everything (especially what’s not being done). When things are getting done by themselves, the parent is present and part of the decision making, everyone is on board and positively involved. You don’t lose authority – you are the authority. The parent still sets the boundaries and rules (such as having the daily meeting, all tasks are on the board, the way we talk, respect each other etc.’) because they understand the value but let go other rules that are not worth fighting for. This way, the kids own their tasks and decide what’s being done first and what later .Parenting is not easy, and agile is not a silver bullet but it sure provides a simple set of tools that make the family atmosphere less chaotic, or controlled, less stressful and more fun.

Can this book “Agile Kids” be of some help to the Teachers in efficiently & effectively managing the learning & assessment process of their students?

These days there’s a movement that implements scrum called EDUSCRUM in schools. This book is more suitable for homes, and definitely explains the method. Thus if one wants to start implementing it in classes is welcome to contact my Dutch friends: http://tracks.roojoom.com/r/2022

Working with eduScrum in schools means using Scrum to help teams of students learn more effectively. You’ll see self-organized teams of student work in sprints to learn subjects and evolve the learning process. Students work independently and take responsibility for their own effort and that of their team members. They get more fun in the subject, work quicker through the curriculum and get better results. Results from the agile way of working are improved quality of education, higher grades and motivated students. Here is how they do it.

Beyond the “Agile Kids”, what would be your advice to the readers on “speed and scale with Agile”?

I believe that agile works in many different ways. It’s a state of mind. This is not a recipe, it’s a set of values and principles along with tools which have been proven as increasing productivity and creativity not only in in the work place or the software world. This world is so diverse, it contains insights and world-views from many different worlds such as Japan, Psychology, Project management, improvement of assembly lines in the industry world, Organization Psychology etc.

The Coaching BoosterI recommend you read my latest book – “The Coaching Booster”, that I wrote with Jens R. Woinowski (http://leanself.org/) on personal coaching with Agile methods.

This book is a tool, a booster to use with all of these different coaching methods. It’s  a booster for coaching results, to allow every coach in every  field and level of coaching, to take the coaching to a new level, suitable for dealing with a rapidly changing environment. Buy the Book


 

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