Saturday, June 1, 2013

Rumsfeld's Rules...for Moms

When he was just a little kid, Donald Rumsfeld starting writing down quotes, phrases and words of advice, and storing them in a shoebox.  He continued this practice (trading typed copies for the shoebox) throughout his incredible life.  In his eighty plus years, he's not just seen American history, he's been part of it.  President Ford read his collection of sayings, called them "Rumsfeld's Rules" and had copies distributed throughout his cabinet.

In his new book, Rumsfeld's Rules, Rumsfeld highlights some of his favorite "rules" and gives reflections, applying them to government, business, and leadership.  I read the book over Memorial Day and enjoyed it immensely.  There was so much insight and a good dose of humor, and much of the wisdom applies to people in all walks of life.

Since moms are in leadership positions- managers of the domestic domain- I decided to put together my own reflections on Rumsfeld's Rules...for moms.  His Rules are bolded.

On Parenting Styles:
  • ·         Trust your instincts.  Success depends, at least in part, on the ability to “carry it off.”  There are so many opinions on how to parent properly.  Some of those opinionated experts don’t have children.  None of them have MY children.  None of them have YOUR children.  Lots of parents raise contributing members of society, whether or not they followed a book.  Love your kids and find what works for you.  Your kids know if you’re trying to put on someone else’s show.
  • ·         If a problem has no solution, it may not be a problem, but a fact, not to be solved, but to be coped with over time.  (Shimon Peres)  I recently read an article contrasting French and American parenting.  French parents, apparently, set firm rules, starting by letting their kids “cry it out” at four months.  As a result, French children are “better behaved” than American children.  Too bad that they grow up to burn cars on the streets of Paris.  Beware the promise of a perfect child!  Just because something he does is annoying or inconvenient doesn’t mean there’s a “fix,” despite the wealth of “experts” out there who might tell us otherwise.  Those little people are born with personalities, and though we can influence, they are who they are.
  • ·         Don’t panic.  Things may be going better than they seem from the inside.  Everything seems like a big deal when you’re with the kiddos all day.  Most of it turns out not to be.  Take a deep breath.  They might actually turn out okay after all.
  • ·         Nothing ages so quickly as yesterday’s vision of the future.  (Richard Corliss)  You have no idea what tomorrow holds.  Just do your best and worry as little as possible.

On Chores:
  • ·         You get what you inspect, not what you expect.  I remember writing this down when I first heard it quoted at an organization workshop.  I’m still working to be disciplined about inspections!  If I don’t inspect their chores, they often go undone, or at least partially done.
  • ·         The two most important rules in Washington D.C. are: Rule One: “The cover-up is worse than the event.”  Rule Two:  “No one ever remembers the first rule.”  I’d rather see a messy room today than find a closeted hoard a week from now, and my kids know it, but the cover-up seems to just be embedded in human nature.  Mete out a double consequence for hidden crimes!
  • ·         People don’t spend money earned by others with the same care that they spend their own.  When Nathan was little, he was trying to get me to buy him a toy.  “Why don’t you buy it with your money?”  I asked.  “I’m not going to waste my money on that!” he exclaimed.  It’s good for kids to earn- and spend- their own money.  
     On Children's Criticism:
  • ·         If you are not being criticized, you may not be doing much.  Growing up in Germany, I would see shepherds with their sheep.  If the sheep were in fences, contentedly munching grass and getting fat, they were quiet.  But when the shepherd would take them out on the path and move them, they would raise such a ruckus, you could hear them all over the woods.  Herding sheep (and children) results in a lot of complaining, but it’s just the shepherd’s job.  Remember:
  • ·         If you do something, somebody’s not going to like it.  Just because they don’t like it, doesn’t mean it’s not the best thing for them.  They may even thank you for it later.  (And, if not, at least you’ve given them something interesting to discuss with their shrink.)
  • ·         Not all negative press is unearned.  If you’re getting it, see if there’s a reason.  Sometimes kids have a point.  It’s hard to listen when they’re being disrespectful or whiny, but it’s still good to listen and see if there’s any truth to it.  And teach them to dissent in a congenial way.

      On Parenting Boys:
  • ·         Never assume the other guy will never do something you would never do.  Because boys will do things you had never imagined.
  • ·         The only thing that should be surprising is that we continue to be surprised.  And the longer you parent boys, the less surprised you are.
  • ·         When you’re in a bind, create a diversion.  (Alf Landon)  Always be suspicious if they bring you flowers.
  • ·         What you see is what you get.  What you don’t see gets you.  If they’re hollering like they’re killing each other, it’s fine.  If they’re quiet, be afraid.

On Planning:
  • ·         If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there. (Paraphrase of Lewis Carroll)  Moms spend a lot of time in the weeds.  We feed people, change diapers, referee squabbles, and focus almost exclusively on the urgent.  It’s really important to take a step back and remember the big picture.  What are we aiming for?  Where are we headed?  What values are driving our family and parenting?
  • ·         If you expect people to be in on the landing, include them for the takeoff.  Once I’ve decided to make a change, I’ve found it helpful, rather than just announcing it, to take some time- perhaps days or weeks depending on how big the change is- to walk the kids through my thought process.  I have to be careful that they know that I am the one making the decision, not they, but it gives them a chance to adjust and, yes, to complain, and feel that they have been heard.  Which brings us to the next rule:
  • ·         Stubborn opposition to proposals often has no basis other than the complaining question, “Why wasn’t I consulted?” (Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan)
  • ·         This strategy represents our policy for all time.  Until it’s changed.  (Marlin Fitzwater)  Plans change.  Kids grow.  Circumstances alter.  I try not to worry too much about whether something is going to work “forever.”  It won’t.  But if it works now, it’s a good thing.
  • ·         If you’re coasting, you’re going downhill.  (LW Pierson)  Having a big vision for your family and implementing it is challenging, but it’s worth it.  In life, as in cycling, you only get the stunning views if you climb the mountain.
       And finally:
  • In tough jobs, the days are long and the years are short.  (Former Secretary of State George Schulz)  

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