Monday, 20 October 2014

Teach your kids how to find out EVERYTHING! Seven Brothers Game

In the world of Sales and Consulting, the 'Open Question' is king!

Open Questions, as we know, elicit a non-digital (yes/no) response. Used effectively, they can open up a world of hidden information, opinions and feelings. They're also great to use with your kids!

Closed Questions are like this:

- Do you... ?
- Are you... ?
- Can you... ?
- Have you... ?
- Will you... ?

The seven Open Questions are like this:

- Who... ?
- What... ?
- Which... ?
- When... ?
- Where... ?
- How... ?
- Why... ?

We'll call these the 'Seven Brothers'.

The 'Seven Brothers' game, which you can play with your children is simply a challenge to ask seven questions, covering each of the seven brothers, in a conversation - without being found out!

To get them into the spirit, change up your normal after-school round table of "What did you do today?" discussion, with a Seven Brothers approach. For each child, who is telling you about his/her day (the interviewee), let each other member of the family (the interviewers) ask a different open question to uncover more detail about the questionee's day. You'll be surprised how much more you learn about their day!

Once all the children (and adults) are familiar with how to phrase open Seven Brothers questions, it's time to start the game...

Whenever you are having a 1:2:1 or group discussion, when one person is speaking, the others try to ask open questions, naturally and without arousing suspicion, until all Seven Brothers have been asked!

If the interviewee recognises that Seven Brothers is being attempted, they will say something like "Enough with the Seven Brothers!", and they win.

If the interviewers manage to get all Seven Brothers questions asked without suspicion - they win, and it's high-fives all round.

Playing the game is especially fun for older children with younger siblings, because they get to practise on an unsuspecting and less aware individual. Although the game creates winners, the losers don't feel so bad, because they just got to either try to ask good open questions, or they got to explain a subject to their siblings/parents in much more depth than is usual.

Of course, the game is a distraction from the serious learning message. Children and adults do well in life if they are curious, interested in the details, and don't spend all their time talking about themselves. This wonderful little game gives them the tools to be great conversationalists, great consultants, great managers, and simply great people to be around!

I don't know of any plastic game in a carboard box which teaches such an important life skill!

Answering Kid's Questions - DON'T DO IT!!!

In a previous post, we talked about how to reduce the persistent "Daddy?.. Daddy?.. Daddy?.." of a child with a question to ask. Let's take a look at how to answer their questions... or not!

We know that children are better than adults at certain tasks, and science has proven why they can figure out gadgets more quickly than adults. Have you ever played 'Concentration' or 'Pairs' with a 4 year old?  They are formidable opponents at this age.

But the sum total of their knowledge is not broad, and they ask questions to help them grow their knowledge.

This can be frustrating for a parent. A 4 year old girl might ask upwards of 300 questions per day.

So how do you answer these questions, to give your child the best start in life?

I'll define two approaches, and you can decide which approach to take at each opportunity. There is no one answer, but the more you can use 'Approach 2', the more you are teaching them a skill, rather than imparting a piece of knowledge.

Approach 1

The simple answer!  Example...

Q. "Dad... what's for dinner?"
A. "Lasagne and salad."

Informative, quick and easy answer. Learning value out of 10 ? 2 out of 10.

Approach 2

The challenge !

Q. "Dad... what's for dinner?"
A. "Can you guess, from the ingredients on the worktop?"
A. "What food has layers of pasta in it?"
A. "And what could we have on the side with our Lasagne?"

Teaches the skill of deduction, forward-thinking, and to work out answers for themselves. Learning value ? 5 out of 10.

So now we can apply the same approach to something more, erm ... meaty!

Try this on the list of top 'Difficult Questions' from a survey back in 2010.

Number 1: How is electricity made ?

Approach 1

Q. "Dad... how is electricity made?"
A. "There is a big windmill, and the wind blows the windmill round. The windmill blades are connected to a turbine, which is like a backwards electric motor, and that makes electricity which is sent down the power cables into our house."

Simplified and easy to understand. Learning value: 4 ?

Approach 2

Q. "Dad... how is electricity made?"
A. "Do you know anything that makes electricity?"
--  "The windmill at the business park?"
A. "How does it turn the wind into electricity?"
--  "With an electric motor?"
A. "That's right, but electric motors normally use-up electricity don't they? How is that one different?"
--  "It's backwards ?"

And so the conversation continues. With the child being encouraged to think about the problem, to uncover the knowledge. Learning Value: 8 ?

BONUS TIP: If you don't know the answer to a question, which approach is going to work best? Yep, Approach 2. Because if at any stage you find you can't guide the child towards the answer, you can both look up the information. The child not only uses his/her skills to find the answer, but also feels great by teaching their parent something they didn't know!

Now... a word of warning.... Approach 2 takes longer. Much longer! If you are trying to get your children out of the door to school, or trying to get them into bed on time, then either postpone the discussion, or skip to Approach 1.

And Approach 2 takes a bit of getting used to, for adults and children alike. Be prepared to encounter a bucket full of "I dunno"s and "Can't you just tell me the answer?"s. But stick with it. It takes time for them to build their skills, but it is very, very worth it - the first time they work something out on their own!

Saturday, 18 October 2014

The Awesome Father: TIP 5 - STORYTIME FOR BAD DAYS! teach your kids a lesson but show you care


Sometimes my kids do stupid things, behave badly or just annoy me. I'm sure I'm not alone. So here's a tip to get the message over to them that their behaviour isn't acceptable, affects others and has consequences.

You should, of course, tell the child at the time of the incident that a: the behaviour is not acceptable, b: it annoys you, and c: there will be consequences. So do that as usual, and be as specific as possible about what exactly they did wrong, how it makes you feel, what impact it has on other people, and what the consequences and punishments are.

But then, you might still be feeling annoyed by bedtime, and your child will normally have forgotten the incident or simply moved on. So here's the perfect time to remind them and reinforce the learning!

Story time comes around, and instead of reading a story book to your child, you tell them that today you will make up a story. The story goes something like this...

"Once upon a time there was a good boy called... ", now slightly change the name of your child. e.g. My middle child is called Aaron. So let's call the little boy Darren. So no one is in any doubt as to who we are talking about!

"Once upon a time there was a good boy called ... Darren. He was well behaved, and his father loved him very much. 

But one day, Darren decided that it would be fun to walk to the shops. He forgot to tell his dad where he was going, and didn't take a phone or wristwatch with him. So his dad got very worried when he didn't come back when he should have, and nearly called the police. 

The dad was very upset because he thought about all the bad things that could happen to a boy alone, out late. When Darren finally returned home, Dad was relieved and happy to see him, but had to make sure that Darren knew not to do that again, so he stopped him going out on his own for a week.

Darren still loved his Dad and Dad still loved Darren, and they both agreed to still be friends.

The End."

And so, Aaron goes to sleep with these thoughts fresh in his mind, knowing that his dad loves him very much, and having been reminded of what exactly he did wrong.

If this sounds like a better end to a bad day, then try it.

BONUS TIP: This works even better for good days - stories about amazing kids (who sound like your kids), who have well behaved adventures and win at sports competitions (or enjoy taking part). So don't hold back - be as excited and creative with your story-telling as possible!

The Awesome Father: TIP 4 - ELEVATOR GAME! the most fun you can have with a floor and a child!


How do you change up a game of competitive 'rough-and-tumble' with a toddler to be a laugh-out-loud mutually beneficial experience? Here's how...

Rough-and-tumble session have only one ending. Someone has to lose! Either dad squashes the small child, or dad lets the small child win. Neither of these make for positive outcomes - and usually the mother is looking on in horror as the ante is upped and tears are inevitable.

Finish a game of rough-and-tumble on a high note with this little game - and get a little chest work out while you're at it...

The 'Elevator Game' involves dad lying on his back holding the child across his chest as if he were about to bench-press the child. The child has to do a plank, and can face the floor (less scary) or the ceiling (more scary) and stay nice and flat. Be careful where you hold the child... on the chest below the neck, and at the top of the thighs are ideal, minimising discomfort and giving good purchase!

You are about to bench-press your child a few times, so get comfortable!

Follow the instructions and script - but feel free to replace 'department store departments' with anything funny or relevant to your day:

    "Ground floor: Valet parking and Coffee Shop"

Push the child off your chest a little way and stop.

    "First floor: Ladies wear, pyjamas and pants"

Push the child a little further up and stop.

    "Second floor: Mens wear, cardigans and slippers"

Push the child up a little more and stop.

    "Third floor: Children's wear, toyshop and pets"

Push the child right up.

    "Top floor: Rooftop restaurant and terrace"


Drop the child, in a controlled fashion, back to your chest - with a little bump!

Rinse, and repeat!

This was my kids absolute favorite, and always had us laughing away. And it worked great until about aged 11 - when they get too heavy!  Try it now, before it's too late.

BONUS TIP: For smaller (lighter) kids, there are variations including:

- "OH NO! THE BUILDING IS FALLING OVER!", with straight arms, lower child over your head (carefully) until they land on the floor gently.
- "OH NO! THERE'S AN EARTHQUAKE!", shake the child vigorously at the top floor!
- "OH NO! THE ELEVATOR IS ON A BUNGEE CORD!", bounce the child up and down (a lot)!

Just tried this again with my three. 8yr old and 11yr old were easy enough. 13yr old daughter was a struggle! But we all ended up in fits of laughter - as expected!

The Awesome Father: TIP 3 - HIGH FIVING - ALWAYS NAIL IT! what always? yep, always!


Credit for this tip goes to Alex Jacobs, a good friend of mine - who is also an accomplished father!

Get the basic etiquette for high-fiving here. And once a high-five has been initiated, make sure it's a good one... with this simple tip.

Step 1: Look at the other person's elbow.

Yep, that's it. No other instructions necessary. Just look at the other person's elbow, not their hand - and you'll be guaranteed an impressive connection.

Strangely it works with adults and kids alike. There seems to be no limit to the power of this trick. Give it a go.

BONUS TIP: Nailing a 'windmill high five' like Mav and Goose (0:22), takes practise - so only attempt it with people (or kids) that you high-five frequently. The key here is to look at the elbow 'up-high', but keep walking past for the 'down-low'. 

The Awesome Father: TIP 2 - GET MY ATTENTION - THE RIGHT WAY! or how to respond to constant questioning


"Daddy?... Daddy?... Daddy?... Daddy?... Daddy?... Daddy?... Daddy?... Daddy?... DADDY!"

What an infernal racket!  And multiply that by 2 or three children and it really becomes un-manageable. A study in 2014 showed that children can ask up to 390 questions per day - 4 year old girls are officially the worst offenders!

But is there another way?

In the world of DaddyDaddyCool ... you betcha there is!

Usually the above scenario happens either when a conversation with another child or an adult is under way. So you might not even notice the first few "Daddy?"'s. But as you ignore, the volume rises until it demands your attention. Here's what you do...

Step 1: Turn to your darling child, look them in the eye and say "Bobby, I'm talking - I'll answer your question when I'm finished."

Step 2: IMPORTANT! At the very next pause in conversation (make one happen if it doesn't happen within 2 minutes), go back to your child and say "Bobby, what did you want to ask me?". Give them your full attention, answer the question, help them out, or do whatever is needed.

NOTE:This gives them huge positive reinforcement, not just because you helped them, but that you deemed them important enough to remember their enquiry, stop your conversation and go back to them.

Step 3: Return to your other conversation.

Very straight-forward and simple to achieve isn't it?  Well yes, but sometimes you forget the enquiry and don't go back to your child. It's important that you NEVER FORGET! If you do forget, then the effect is reversed and your kid will not only think that you don't care, but now you just lied to them, by telling them that you would go back to them and not following through.

But how do you remember not to forget!?  Easily...

GOLDEN TIP: Move something to a strange position on the table, which will remind you to act! This could be: cross over your knife and fork, take your watch off and hold it or put it on the table, stand a book/pen/phone on its end. Just make it something you'll notice as unusual. The simple fact that you thought to do this will keep your brain aware, and will guarantee that you don't forget !

GOLDEN TIP 2 (HERE's WHERE THE MAGIC HAPPENS!!): Even well trained kids can struggle to get your attention when you are deeply engaged in a grown-up conversation. To avoid them needing to raise the volume to get your attention, teach them an invaluable lifeskill...

    If you want someone's attention... touch them on the arm!

My kids now know that to get someone's attention is very, very easy. It's not very 'British', but a little personal contact goes a long way!  Simple teach them that if someone doesn't respond to your first politely volumed request, just put your hand on their arm and look them in the eye.

They quickly learn the power of this 'gesture'. It will usually stop an adult in their tracks and get their attention immediately. BUT BEWARE!: Don't answer their question right away - once you've acknowledged their polite request for attention, you MUST go through Steps 1 to 3!

So there it is - simple, volume-reducing steps and tips for your household... who doesn't need some of that!

The Awesome Father: Tip 1 - Shotgun Rules!

Here is a series of a few simple changes you can make today to improve the relationship with your kids...

The first one comes from frustration over the hassle of getting 3 kids into a car with out fights breaking out. Most of us have somewhere between 2 and 6 car journeys with kids per day, so this is a godsend!

TIP 1:  SHOTGUN RULES! or how to reduce front-seat-ownership arguments

Who gets to sit in the front seat of the car when 3 kids are travelling, and one adult driving? Who's turn is it? But didn't little Johnny go in the front last time? But Billy said "Shotgun" OMG! What a pain that conversation became !!!

Try this... (btw, it's genius!)

Step 1 - Tell the children that the only question that is allowed before getting in the car is...

         "Daddy, who's in the front?"

Step 2 - Make an arbitrary choice - EVERY TIME

Step 3 - Penalise any resistance, complaints, or 'asking the wrong question' with elimination from the next round!

Bonus Tip: On the way to an event, I'll usually put that child whose event it is in the front. They get to choose their favorite music to psyche themselves up for it! BUT - they still have to ask the right question!

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Speaking to kids - the right way!

Treat your kids as adults - they deserve it!
Are children mini-adults?   Should you treat them that way?

I imagine that most parents would say not. But science tells us otherwise.

In 1964, Eric Berne, of the San Francisco Psychoanalytic institute, published a seminal work on the science of 'Transactional Analysis - the games people play'. The text is still being used to introduce these concepts in psychology and management science degree courses today.

It describes three states of mind, or ego states, that people (and children) use when communicating:

- Parent: Instructional, frequently pre-recorded, sentences - expecting compliance

  e.g. "Go to bed now, and don't forget to clean your teeth!"

- Child: Reactive, emotional and sometimes objectionable

  e.g. "Please close the closet door, I'm scared of monsters!"

- Adult: Analytical, calculated, rational

  e.g. "Explain to me, why are you scared of monsters at night, but not in the day?"

The Transactional Analysis theories explain that human interactions between two people operate between these states, and that starting with a certain state illicits a response in the expected state of the other person.

In the above diagram, the child makes a request, "Dad can I have an ice-cream?". The father responds as a parent, to comply with the expected ego state, "No, you can't. It's nearly dinner time!". 

A similar request made by a child, but acting in the Adult ego state, could be "Dad, it's really hot - shall we have an ice-cream to cool down?", would illicit an Adult ego state response. "We could do, but it might spoil our dinner." 

Adult to Adult interactions typically reduce the potential for emotional responses, by maintaining an equal and analytical discussion. Child to Parent or Parent to Child interactions are typified by a reliance on status superiority to reach a conclusion. 

As children tend to default to the Child ego state until they are mature enought to realise that reasoned rational discussions are typically more lucrative, the child will continue to use that state as the default starting point for an interaction. The Child-Parent style interaction is re-inforced frequently in children's entertainment programs, the school-yard and by other parents. It makes for good drama, but poor quality familial relationships.

The good parent should always be aware of this transactional mechanism, and can always respond in the Adult ego state, creating a 'Crossed Transaction'.

This approach often nullifies the Child ego state, and can illicit a changed ego state in the child, to continue the discussion in the Adult state.  Thereby reducing the likelihood of emotional escalations, annoyance (if unsuccessful), or misplaced pride (if successful).

Compare these approaches:


         Adult: "Do you know where my cufflinks are ?"
         Child: "You always blame me for everything !"
         Adult: "That's because you're the one who plays with my stuff and doesn't put it back!"
         Child: "No, I don't! I haven't seen your stupid cufflinks!"

Crossed Transaction - leading to Adult-Adult

         Adult: "Do you know where my cufflinks are ?"
         Child: "You always blame me for everything !"
         Adult: "I'm not accusing you, I'm asking if you have seen them lying around anywhere."
         Child: "No, I haven't. Have you looked by the washing machine?"

So, to answer the question of "Should we talk to kids as if they are adults?", then I'm very much for that approach - and science backs up this approach.  But BEWARE... kids are still kids, and they need much more encouragement, positive feedback, and a greater sense of belonging than us, more hardened, adults. So be sure to communicate Adult to Adult, but throw in as much positivity and empathy as you can.

And... give them more hugs than you need - because even when they converse in Adult state, they still need to know you love them.