Everything I know about parenting, I learned from McDonald’s.

Everything I know about parenting I learned from McDonald’s.

Okay, not everything, but I did learn some important things. “Time to lean, time to clean” for instance. Cleaning as you go is better than trying to fit in an attic to basement extravaganza. The latter never happens when you have young kids.

Also, be organized. A little preplanning is worth its weight in gold. And, embody the Golden Rule*. That was a big one at the first McDonald’s I worked at. The manager was pretty insistent and modelled the behaviour very well.

I used these rules during my first go-round of parenting and I think they helped me do a reasonably good job, although my parenting has improved now that I’m a grandparent. It helps that grandparents are only on call for limited stretches. Being able to hand off for dirty diapers and temper tantrums takes the pressure off and makes it easier to maintain your chill.

But the practical things I did I still do. The four basic rules that helped me serve up hamburgers in a timely fashion also made me a better parent and a better person; who could have guessed? It helps that I was lucky in my trainers, I suppose. They were all good people.

The four rules are based on one simple idea: be considerate. Treat other people well. This may surprise some, but “other people” also includes your kids. I admit I fall short in my attempts to be consistently considerate; I falter at times on social media. Improving my online footprint is something I’m working on. Anonymity is definitely a challenge to civility.

The rules I picked up and applied to parenting (and other relationships) are as follows:

Be patient.

Everyone does things a little differently. It doesn’t make other people wrong. They might not do it the way you would or as well as you could; you still don’t need to take over. People build pride over time by accomplishing things; you rob them of that if you’re impatient. This doesn’t mean don’t teach. It means that people learn at their speed, not yours and that nobody is perfect when they’re learning. 

Be polite.

I wouldn’t dream of saying “get out of my way” or “move it” to a random person at the grocery store. We’re most of us polite to the strangers we encounter when we’re out and about. Unfortunately, the people we spend most of our time with are often not treated as well. We get lazy with people we work and live with. We forget that they’re also entitled to our consideration, good manners, and respect.

Make your expectations clear.

Fuzzy expectations are the worst. At best, you’ll get something close to what you want. I once told an employee to “clean the back room”. I meant “do the dishes”. When I went back to check on him, he was organizing the stock and the dishes were still unwashed. My fault, not his. My request lacked specificity.

Clear also means precise. Don’t be vague and don’t be global. Telling a child to “clean up” is too big a request. It’s overwhelming. No wonder it often gets left undone. They have no idea where to start. Telling them to “put the dolls in the toybox” is much more likely to get results. Helping is even better; kids like the company and they like to show what they can do.

Show your gratitude.

You can say “thank you” to the people who aren’t the lovely gentleman who held the door for you this morning. You can say thank you to the people you live with. You can thank your kids. Thank them when they do something right. Thank them when they try. When they’re really little, thank them for listening. For them, that’s really hard. Show your gratitude. They crave the props; it feeds their souls. We are a species that likes to please and that starts very young. The need doesn’t go away either. We like to be appreciated.

Do you have explicit interpersonal-relationship rules that govern your behaviours?

*The Golden Rule is the principle of treating others as you want to be treated. It is a maxim that is found in many religions and cultures. It can be considered an ethic of reciprocity in some religions, although other religions treat it differently. [Wikipedia]

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