Sunday, August 15, 2010

Sunday Inspiration—Clayton Christensen

In addition to his neglected personal blog, Photo Scrooge has a bona fide business blog, with readers all over the world. A couple of weeks ago he posted this. I like the idea of posting what's inspiring me lately, and Sunday seems like a good day for that. We've been fans of Clayton Christensen for a while now, and I loved reading this new article by him in the Harvard Business Review called How Will You Measure Your Life? I highly recommend reading the whole article, but here's an excerpt that really hit home for me:

"In using this model to address the question, How can I be sure that my family becomes an enduring source of happiness?, my students quickly see that the simplest tools that parents can wield to elicit cooperation from children are power tools. But there comes a point during the teen years when power tools no longer work. At that point parents start wishing that they had begun working with their children at a very young age to build a culture at home in which children instinctively behave respectfully toward one another, obey their parents, and choose the right thing to do. Families have cultures, just as companies do. Those cultures can be built consciously or evolve inadvertently.

If you want your kids to have strong self-esteem and confidence that they can solve hard problems, those qualities won’t magically materialize in high school. You have to design them into your family’s culture—and you have to think about this very early on. Like employees, children build self-esteem by doing things that are hard and learning what works."
One of the things we've tried to incorporate into our family culture is dinner together. My family was never very formal, and though we have had many memorable dinners (usually with lots of guests), we didn't have the habit of sitting around the table together each night. Rob's parents continued the tradition of Sunday dinners even after the kids had left home, usually the whole nine yards—roast, mashed potatoes and gravy, fresh baked rolls—served on their beautiful china.

We're somewhere in-between. I'm not quite willing to wash dishes by hand, and neither is Rob. But we do manage to sit around the table most nights, even if we've ordered pizza or take-out. I even managed a nice tender roast today, although no gravy (most of us had sweet potatoes, so it wasn't really an issue). I love the chance to ask everyone about their day, and hopefully the kids are learning some form of etiquette. Sundays everyone has a chance to tell the family what they learned at church, and that tends to be a good discussion. I know this is a tradition that will get harder and harder as the kids grow up and become involved in more extra-curricular activities, but I'm sold on the benefits of making this effort.

Maybe in a few years this'll look fancier. Or not. Rob did give me a standing ovation for the food. He knows how to keep a good thing going. :)

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