Bruce Feiler helps us translate one of the biggest ideas from the world of software development into a functional family dynamic. The “agile” philosophy, he says, helps families to be better at self-governance and less reliant on top-down, or “waterfall”, governance.
As he talks, it’s easy to see the benefits. Kids choose their own punishments before they act out and they can’t really complain when the punishments are doled out when they act out. Beneficial activities are deconstructed to determine what the actual benefit is, and then the family finds ways of incorporating that benefit into their particular family dynamic.
My greatest takeaway from this talk is actually not something that Feiler says, but rather, something he implies: Nobody knows your family better than you. Yes, listen to the experts. Learn the research. But there is no one-size-fits-all approach to family. You know your family better than anyone. How can you take what you learn from experts and apply it in your specific situation for your specific family?
One of the greatest pieces of parenting advice that I’ve ever received was in response to a question someone asked about being embarrassed or feeling like a bad parent when their kid acts up in public. The lecturer’s response? “Who cares? Who cares what someone else thinks of you? They don’t know you! They don’t know your kid! That’s YOUR job and you’re the only one who can do it.”
It’s my job to know my family and if I take that seriously, I think we could probably implement an “agile” philosophy in our home.