At school, we set clear goals with students, establish clear criteria for success, and track progress with rubrics. Why don't I use this approach at home?
It's kind of funny to think about. Imagine pulling out a rubric during dinner time to score your younger children on their table manners, or pulling out a "relationship rubric" to talk to your teens about their relationships with their significant others (or to your wife about your own relationship).
But this is exactly the sort of thing we're trying to do at The Depot--using rubrics and setting goals for improving our students' noncognitive skills. We're trying to be intentional and objective about helping our students grow in important ways. Why should home be any different?
Some people really don't like rubrics at all. Maybe they feel like they are artificial. Maybe they feel like that's not how humans operate.
And maybe I don't talk about specific goals and criteria for success with my own kids when I discuss life skills with them, but maybe I should. Having clear expectations, rules, criteria for success, and feedback is essential to improvement, whether you're improving your basketball skills, your fitness, or your relationship skills.
Of course we don't want to make this all about scores or constant judgement, but using data doesn't have to be the way. It can be a powerful tool for avoiding natural cognitive biases that cloud our view of how we're actually doing. It's about being willing to look at things as they really are, and improving.
To various degrees I try to track my own stuff, like cholesterol, fitness, meditation, and reading. I recently discovered I had high cholesterol, so I started a series of experiments to see what might bring it down. I started with a baseline data point (here's our current paleo-primal winter meal plan), then I cut back on a bit saturated fats for a month. This meant skipping my coconut milk breakfast smoothies and cooking in vegetable oil instead of bacon grease. Then I got another blood test. Then I started up my old supplement regime again for a month, and retested. The results are in the figure on the right.
This month I'm drinking red wine every day. Since I saw a drop with the saturated fat reduction (the middle point on the graph), I'll kick it up a notch next month and try the Mediterranean diet (here's the tentative meal plan).
What if we had similar measurements for relationship variables and subjective well-being (actually, there are a bunch of ways we could measure these) and then came up with specific strategies to improve them?
Maybe it would look something like this: Hey, honey, how about we take this relationship test and then try something new, like going out every week, and take the test again later to see if things improve?
Or how about this: By the way, son, I've noticed you've been working towards some serious fitness and professional goals. Have you thought about setting any personal or relationship goals? Are you interested in some ideas about how you could track them?
I know there must be a balance between contentment and striving. There's a time to be content with who you are and where you are, and just be. But as long as we're talking about improvement, I know I need to be more intentional about it, whether at work or home. If there's something wrong with this approach at home, then why am I doing it at school, and if it works at school, then why am I not I doing it at home?
I don't plan on developing any relationship rubrics for myself or my kids right away, but I do plan on working towards more intentionality in helping everyone around me, including myself, improve. And maybe a little rubric for that wouldn't hurt.
Instead of a resolution, here's a rubric for the new year:
Just getting started
Bill offers to help his kids and wife establish new personal goals and tracking systems. He begins to work on a new tracking system for one of his own personal goals.
Bill offers to help his kids and wife establish new personal goals and tracking systems, and follows up with them during the year. He also establishes a new tracking system for one of his own personal goals.
Bill helps one of his kids and/or his wife establish new personal goals and tracking system, and follows through with them all year. He also establishes a new tracking system for one of his own personal goals.
Bill helps his kids and wife establish new personal goals and tracking systems, and follows through with them all year. He also establishes two new tracking systems for his own personal and relationship goals.