Agile Parenting

Jan 12, 2015 · 5 min read

As a parent it is easy to feel overwhelmed, stressed and as if my home life is less than in control. It’s shocking that these little people can have such an impact on my mood; complete love and bliss to the tipping point of frustration. During one of my TED channel binges I came across something that is transforming my family. Being a product manager for the past 10+ years this title instantly caught my eye: Agile Programming — for your family. After listening to Bruce Feiler discuss agile parenting I instantly loved the concept so I read his book The Secrets of Happy Families; read Agile Practices for Families: Iterating with Children and Parents by David and Eleanor Starr and developed a plan for my family.

Our Plan

For those of you not familiar with agile development here is what wikipedia has to say:

Agile software development is a group of software development methods in which requirements and solutions evolve through collaboration between self-organizing, cross-functional teams. It promotes adaptive planning, evolutionary development, early delivery, continuous improvement and encourages rapid and flexible response to change…

Key words: collaboration; self-organizing, adaptive, evolutionary, continuous improvement, and flexible.

Adopting this concept makes sense. My job is to prepare my kids to become accomplished adults. So what better way to do that than to help them become a part of the team, set personal goals and to be held accountable. To date we have adopted three components which are working beautifully:

  1. Weekly Family Meetings
  2. Awesome Points
  3. AM/PM Checklists

Every Sunday at 7 PM we all come together for our Family Meeting. Our kids LOVE it! Here is what a typical meeting looks like:

  1. As outlined in Bruce Feiler’s book we open our meetings with these three questions 1. What worked well for the family this week? 2. What did not work so well for the family this week? 3.What are we going to work on this coming week? We decide as a team what our family goals are for the week (we pick one or two items from #2 above).
  2. Share your work. I let the kids pick one of the bazillion worksheets/homework/art that comes home and have them present it to the family. We then pass it around and every “looks” at it. (we do this every week — unless there is nothing impressive) This is one of my favorite parts of the meetings as I can see how proud the kids are of themselves.

We then pick one item from below to discuss:

  1. Life lesson. I have noticed that most of my lectures fall on deaf ears because we discuss them emotionally in the moment of a foul. For example, we spent one of our meetings talking about the importance of honesty and, as we say, “owning your mistakes.” We were then able to discuss what trust means and how that translates in our family. That following week our kids started owning mistakes and afterward would say “does this mean you trust me and think I am responsible” — my oh my, they heard us…for the first time ever! This was such a beautiful win.
  2. Building a family values statement. Since our kids are still young we are slowing working on building what our family value statement will be. We do a short exercise where everyone gives one word they would like people to think of when they see a Nucci walking down the street. We are working up to a family mission statement or family value statement that is apart of our kids so that when they are 15 walking out the door we can say — “remember our family values” and they know what is expected of them.

The key with these meetings is to keep them light (we do very little lecturing — everyone has a voice, everyone is heard and everyone participates), we keep them moving quickly and we try and wrap up in 20 mins. Its also a great time to talk about things unemotionally.

Example of a Life Lesson from a family meeting — which became a goal for a week or maybe two :-)

We celebrate AWESOMENESS in our house!

Goal: 20 Tickets. The ticket holder gets to pick a family outing (movie, dinner, bowling etc) that everyone enjoys as a family vs something for individual (keeping to the idea that we are a single unit/team)

How to earn them ? By being awesome! We have given them out for doing extra credit homework (without being told/asked), for helping clean the kitchen without being asked and the girls both got one for conflict resolution that did not include mom and dad — so basically any behavior we want to see more often.

How we give them out. At dinner (or when we are all in the same space) if one has been earned we say “I want to nominate X for an awesome pt because they Y.” I like that we all vote on a nomination because it reinforces the concept of being held accountable by all. We are a team not just kids vs the parents (to a point). The kids are also welcome to nominate another family member, as a matter of fact we are proud parents of 2 awesome points for being awesome parents. We also had one kid nominate another — what a huge win that was!

We’ve done the reward system — traditionally — “oh great job get a bean, get 20 go get a POS toy at 5 below” but I have never seen the girls smile like they do when the WHOLE family celebrates them being awesome — it has such a deeper impact. Not to mention they are learning to be proud of their siblings accomplishments.

Note: Our Awesome Points concept is loosely based on “cotcha” concept from Agile Practices for Families: Iterating with Children and Parents.

The girls both have a clipboard with two sheets of paper attached, one with AM checklist items and one with PM checklist items. Since our little one is still in the early stage of reading her list has both pictures and words. Each morning the girls work through their lists and head down to the kitchen. This has made our mornings move along quickly and with little to no friction. I kept the lists very simple due to age.

Get dressed, make bed, brush hair, brush teeth, gather backpack and snack, eat breakfast etc.

It is so nice not hearing my voice asking the same questions over and over again day after day… I think the kids appreciate that as well. Goodbye nagging parent.

Example Checklist

These small changes have had huge impacts on our family dynamic, our kids self esteem and our relationships. We will keep evolving and growing but this process will stay.

Happy family, Happy life.


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