Monday, September 19, 2005

Total Parent Quality Management

I don't know about you, but I regularly go through periods of wondering if I'm doing a good job as a parent. This feeling can take many forms. The most recent being the "playmate" thing. I know for a fact I'm not the most fun dad there has ever been, and I mostly accept that, but it doesn’t mean there aren't days when that knowledge, for whatever reason, gets to me more than others.

When I was in college, I had a course or two that dealt with the ideas of Total Quality Management (TQM). Books have been written on this, but the idea I took from it was the one of using feedback to engage in a process of continuous improvement. In theory, this could be applied to almost anything.

So, in a fit of concern and a recollection of the feedback principle, I screwed my courage to the sticking place and asked. Specifically, I asked Jacob while on our way home from school last week what, of things that could be changed (we couldn't go to Disneyland every day, for instance), would he like to see changed about what I did as a Dad. I told him that he needn't answer right away, that he could take his time.

Nevertheless, I gripped the steering wheel a bit tighter than usual.

His response did not take long.

"I think you should park closer to the playground. That way, we could stay longer, and I wouldn't hurt my feet as much on the walk back."

I see, I replied. Well, I couldn't park closer if other people got there first, but I would try. Was there anything else?

"Could you come by and eat lunch with me at school?"

I realized we were a month into the school year and I had not stopped by to eat with him. I solemnly promised to try my best to come by the next week.

He felt that was good enough, and addressed himself to finishing his smoothie. My eyes didn't mist over or anything, but my heart was light enough to boost our MPG by at least 5 the rest of the way home.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I applaud your desire to be the best parent possible -- in the end, I think that's all that counts. But I think the flaw in your reasoning is that in TQM, your goal is to maximally please your constituents. Their feedback is therefore maximally relevant.

In parenting, on the other hand, your goal is to do what's best for your child. Sometimes this means doing what's pleasing, but just as often, it means doing what's right and difficult.

I always ask my students what they would change to make the class better. I attend closely to the comments that suggest how they might learn more and better. I try to "hear" the comments along the lines of "less work" or "lower standards" as well -- but I don't think they're part of my process of improvement.