First aired on The Homestretch (16/04/13)
Author Kathy Buckworth has some advice for parents: run your family like a major corporation. She lays out some tips in her new book, I Am So the Boss of You: An 8-Step Guide to Giving Your Family the "Business." In a recent interview on The Homestretch, she told co-host Doug Dirks that she was inspired by her experience working in the corporate sector. "I worked in corporate Canada for about 18 years, and at the time I had three kids. And it occurred to me that I was so in control at work, things would run smoothly...[but] at home I wasn't in charge any more, and it took me ages to convince them to get out the front door, to go to school, et cetera."
Buckworth realized she wasn't the only parent in that situation. "And I thought, we are the boss of these kids. We need take charge, to stop pretending we're their best friend. We need to stop saying, 'What do you want for dinner, sweetie? And I'll make something different for your brother.' That's just bad project management, it's bad goal-setting, bad priorities. All of the things you would never do in an office setting, we somehow let ourselves get away with at home."
In her book, Buckworth makes a distinction between how men and women handle parenting. She believes that men don't have a "guilt gene"; for women, though, "either we're feeling guilty about not spending enough time with our kids, or we're feeling guilty because we're leaving the office too early," she said. "I think men can compartmentalize that a little better."
Buckworth believes that women put pressure on themselves to make sure that what bonding time they spend with their kids is happy. This leads to bending the rules, "allowing them to stay up later or not eat something they don't like," she said.
Buckworth has four kids, two still at home (age 11 and 14) and two away at university or college (19 and 21). She joked that she tends to "think of all of them as interns, to some degree." They know what is expected of them in terms of contributing to the household and she believes in assigning chores, paying an allowance ("I think when you work hard you should see a reward, and I'm also big believer in teaching financial literacy"). What's important is that "your kids understand the rules and expectations. I'm not going to say you should or shouldn't do certain things. But those are your rules, and it's okay to say, 'Those are my rules.' You don't need to explain it."
When asked how her older children have turned out, Buckworth joked, "They're not in jail. Nobody's been incarcerated." She described dropping off her daughter, now in her fourth year of university, in her first year, and telling her, "The mistakes you make from now are yours." But she acknowledged that accepting that your child is now an adult can be hard, especially for the helicopter-parent generation, who have problems letting go.
"If you give the kids the right tools, hopefully they'll leave the house knowing what to do," Buckworth said. She admits to taking a "tongue-in-cheek" approach to parenting in her book, adding, "I try to find the humour in it and I hope other people will as well."