Welcome to Day Four of Family Leadership Week!
You can listen to the interview here. Warning: The audio quality is not great and I had the sniffles.
Or you can read it below.
A little about John:
John G. Miller is the author of QBQ! The Question Behind the Question, Flipping the Switch: Unleash the Power of Personal Accountability, Outstanding! 47 Ways to Make Your Organization Exceptional and co-author of Parenting the QBQ Way. He is founder of QBQ, Inc., an organizational development firm based in Colorado dedicated to “Helping Organizations Make Personal Accountability a Core Value.” A 1980 graduate of Cornell University, John has been involved in the training and speaking industry since 1986. He lives in Denver, Colorado with his wife, Karen. They have seven children and one grandson.
After I insult John by saying he is like my grandfather, we get into the interview with some great questions from readers and a few of my own.
Question One comes from Wade Thorson:
One of the challenges I see with my kids is trying to get them excited about changing how they look at these questions (Incorrect Questions). What can I do to help my kids to have a drive to change from asking IQs to asking personally accountable questions?
John G. Miller: Well, that’s a mouthful and it’s going to depend on the age of the child. If the child is three, the question d
oesn’t work. If the child is thirteen, then we’re back to the same good, but I will use the word “old” because the old stuff is the good stuff. The essence of leadership, which is modeling and being forthright and being direct. So what does that mean? Mom and dad need to model asking the correct questions. We call them the QBQs, the Questions Behind the Questions.
Modeling is the most powerful of all teachers. We say that in the Parenting the QBQ Way book and we say it in QBQ as well because it’s just that important. So mom and dad have to model.
It always amazes me when mom and dad…let’s take it to a different subject…are deeply in debt but then they get on the child for not managing his money well. Well, mom and dad, you need to model that first. Then, of course, if the child is of age, you need to confront them in a loving and direct manner and say, “No, no excuses.” We’ve had to do that in our home. One of our daughter’s tends to say, “Well, I got a B-minus and not an A or I got a C and not a B because the teacher did this or that. And we have to say to “No, you have to know all the material. No excuses.” So, we’ve found that parents who don’t make excuses also don’t accept excuses.
So, the key with the child is to model personal accountability ourselves, as well as verbally teach the right way to handle situations. That’s called character building and it does not begin in the schools. It begins in the home.
The next question comes from a reader via email.
Matt: A reader asked via email:
How do I balance the desire to set rules for my kids (two and four) while still letting them learn from their mistakes and have fun?
John G. Miller: Again, and that’s the challenge with any questions that comes in. I love these questions. It depends on the age of the child. We’ve got that, two and four. It depends on what he’s talking about. If our child is two or three and falls down and scrapes his knee, that is not the time to say, “Oh be a man. walk it off. Get up and go on in life.” No, that is when the child needs a hug, some love from mom and dad. But, if the child is thirteen again, and he gets a D in school because he is lazy and didn’t do his work, then that is not the time to enable him. That is the time to teach a lesson.
So much of parenting is gray. We’ve already found with the new Parenting the QBQ Way book, thought it gets great review and people seem to really appreciate the content, once in a blue moon, someone will say “I wish there were more how-tos in it.” Well Karen and I purposefully stayed away from the six steps to parenting, the nine steps to parenting, the four steps to building the perfect child, because it depends on the setting; the age of the child, the family culture, your goals at that moment.
So, parenting is gray at times. What’s not gray is, for example, our absolutes. So, if you don’t allow swearing or cussing in your house, that is an absolute. It’s not like, “Hey child, you can cuss once in a while.” No. No bad language, period.
If you have a teenager and you don’t allow R-rated movies, and in our house, we don’t even allow PG-13 movies, because they have slipped into R. We say, “No. You are not going to the PG-13 movie with your friend, because that is an absolute in our family.” So parents have to maintain absolutes, they have to develop absolutes. That does not mean that in any given situation that there are not gray areas, though.
If you’ve got a two-year old throwing a tantrum, that is very normal. So obviously, you keep the two-year old safe. You make they are safe. Sometimes you let them scream it out. But if the two-year old is hitting you, that’s when you say, “No! Stop it.”
We’re finding more and more that parents are finding it hard to say words like that. They want to have a conversation with their two-year old. They want to have dialogue. They want to seek to understand. No. Children need absolutes at that age. “No hitting daddy.”
So, a lot of material there. But, be careful with being a permission or liberal parent and thinking that when the child is being disrespectful or disobedient, it’s time to talk about it. No, it’s not always time to talk about it. Sometimes, it’s time for a very firm timeout. In fact, in the Parenting the QBQ Way book, my favorite chapter which covers the “Six Discipline Ds,” because we find parents don’t know when to discipline. They don’t know when. So they back off. A lot of these parents were raised on the show, Charles in Charge. Now they are having families entitled Child in Charge.
The child was not meant to be the boss. Mom and dad are the boss. The child is not the boss. So we have to take charge in our homes and at times be very blunt, be very black and white, but it all comes from our inner desire to have absolutes as moms and dads. Even though, in any given situation, there might be a gray area. And that’s where experience comes in. You start to realize when to hold the child and when to let the child fail.
Matt: Wow, John you were speaking right to me there. This questioner wrote that he tends to go back and forth between being too strict and too lenient. I tend to fall into the same boat. On the one hand, I can be strict. I can discipline. But then, if I have had to disciple frequently that day because we have an almost-two-year old and two-year olds hit. All of them. When I have to discipline a lot, I tend to get a little lenient. And I appreciate that there are absolutes, like you said about cussing for example. You don’t get to cuss on Tuesday, just because it’s a Tuesday. It’s a 24/7 thing, so I appreciate that and hope that the readers and listeners do too…that there are absolutes as parents.
Lily Kreitinger asks:
I enjoy the QBQ approach to life, business and parenting. I’ve found it so helpful and very easy to apply. I assume if we’re responsible for what our kids are doing “wrong” we must also be responsible for what they do right. If they are polite, kind, courageous, spiritual… it’s also because of how we parent. How can we encourage ourselves and other parents to see beyond the mess and look at the rewards?
John G. Miller: I would probably have to start with the part of the question about other parents. We do not encourage other parents, that’s not our job. Our job is to take care of ourselves. That is what QBQ is all about.
The greatest takeaway from QBQ training, speaking engagements, or the book, is that I can only change me. And that happens even in families. I mean, moms get frustrated with dads for not helping out. Dads get frustrated with moms for doing this or that. Well, dad you need to improve yourself, just like I do in my home. Moms, you need to improve yourself, just like I do in my home. So, if you don’t mind me being blunt, I would disregard the part of the question that says ”how can we encourage other parents.” That’s not our job.
Parenting is messy, for sure. There is a sweet spot. We talk about this in the book. The sweet spot is between diapers and drivers licenses. And from about the age of three to fourteen or fifteen, we have a lot of control over our kids, but it’s still messy. So, part of seeing the rewards is doing the right things today, so that tomorrow we will be able to see our child say, “I got a D on a test and it was my fault.” We teach our five-year old today that the milk did not magically spill, but to learn to say, “I spilled the milk.” There is a big difference in those two statements. One is externalizing, blaming the world. One is accountability, taking responsbility for the actions.
So the point is to Lily and all parents is if we do the right things today as parents, the rewards will come tomorrow. So I would focus not so much on what will the rewards be, but how do I teach my child personal accountability. How do I look in the mirror and change me? How can I be the best parent I can be? That is what Parenting the QBQ Way is all about.
Matt: Here is a little bit of an easier question. Do you suggest reading the regular QBQ book before reading the parenting book?
John G. Miller: No, not necessarily at all. Parenting the QBQ Way totally teaches the QBQ methodology.
Obviously, we want everybody to buy all my books, but no, there is no sequential pattern. You don’t have to read QBQ and then PQW. We call it PQW…you know everyone has acronyms.
If you are a mom or dad and you are hearing this interview or reading it online, just go get Parenting the QBQ Way. What you will find is that you will be able to take the message to work, just like people who have read QBQ at work have taken the message home. But the beauty of the new parenting book, Matt, is that it is tailored for moms and dads specifically.
Matt: I got three similar questions. Two of them were via email and I totally understand why. One is from Jon Stolpe, who asks:
What recommendations do you have for parents to kick-start their parental leadership after former lapses in leadership?
The other two questions…one says he spent four years in prison right after his daughter was born. She is seven. He feels like they will never trust him. He wants to know how to rebuild the trust I lost with my children. And the other one is similar, which was:
Like so many of us, I made a lot of mistakes when I was younger. How can I effectively teach my children the proper values when I myself did not live them?
John G. Miller: Whether I’ve been in prison for four years or I am just a regular kind of dad who has never been in prison, it’s a tough situation. What I hear in all three of those questions is the essence of building the relationship with the child, which is all about time…time. We don’t really have quality time without quantity time. I can’t run into the living room and tell my son, “OK bud, let’s have a quality moment. Ready, go!” That can’t be done. I can only have that quality moment when I spent a lot of time with him. And that’s not easy. Most children tend to come along with men and women are building their careers. My kids were born between 1983 and 1990, our first four, because we adopted our next three, so in those years, through the 1980′s, I was finding my way as a twenty-something, learning about life. By 1990, I had left the company I had been with and I was now out selling training, so when Molly, our oldest, was born, dad was so busy wall to wall from 7:00 am to 6:00 pm each day, so I didn’t spend as much time with them. But we have a very close relationship because over the years I have earned that back.
I’ve earned that back by spending as much time as I can with her. It’s true, especially with daughters, they see the father as God. And the way to keep your daughter away from boys and trouble and problems as a teenager is to have that incredibly strong relationship. It’s so ordained. It’s so important that God said, “Fathers, build that relationship with your daughters.” I don’t know if he said it quite that way. But when you are there and you are humble and you are modeling your values as much as you can, letting them know that you are there in person. All of these things come together that form in the daughter a high self-esteem and a resoluteness to stay away from all the troubles that teenagers get into.
So, when I listen to those three questions, I hear a lot of similarities as you did, Matt. And the answer is spending as much time as we can with our children. Now that does not mean, this is where parents take it to extremes, it does not mean that we have to get on the floor with our four-year old and build Legos every single day. But it does mean that we are there, that we are present, that we are in their lives. If we’ve missed four years because of a tragic circumstance, as mentioned in the question, we can’t change it. Let it go. And now, do your best to spend time with that child and model your values so they can learn through your modeling.
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