People occasionally ask us, "If you could just recommend one thing to parents or to marriage partners, what would it be?"
We love something called "The Five Facet Review" because it has such positive impacts both on parenting and on marriages.
It works like this:
Set aside one evening each month to go to dinner someplace — have a nice dinner date — and talk exclusively about your children. If you are a single parent, do it with one of your kids' grandparents or someone else who loves your children. If you have a blended family, this will be an invaluable exercise as you listen to what the genetic parent knows and what the "new parent" perceives about each child.
But in any case, simply go out together, just the two of you, away from the very children you are going to talk about, and preferably to a place where you won't meet too many people you know or get distracted. Then confine your agenda to your children. Simply have a conversation together where you go through the "five facets" of each of your kids: physical, mental, social, emotional and spiritual.
Here is a brief example of how the conversation may go: "How is Brandon doing physically?" Talk through any issues, from weight to teeth or eyes. How about exercise, sports, activity level — any health problems? If there is an issue, focus in on it, brainstorm about it. If it's all good, move on. "How is he doing mentally?" Talk about school, about how he learns, where his mental gifts are. Take notes about concerns and about what you intend to do about it (and about who will do it). "How is he doing socially?" Discuss friends, how he interacts, isolate areas that need attention. "How is he doing emotionally?" Danger signs? How does he handle things? Moody? What upsets him? And finally, "How is he doing spiritually? How is his heart, how is his faith, where is he doing well and where does he need help?
Take notes, think together. When you discover and isolate a concern, decide who will do what about it, knowing you will revisit it in your next five-facet review in a month. It is amazing, once you have focused in on something how ideas and solutions will come to you. Give each other assignments (i.e. Mom to Dad: "Can you read with David twice a week this month? You'll see that he isn't on grade level with his reading skills.")
Pray before and after. Ask for guidance from the true parent. Seek insights about the needs and the worries but also about the gifts and potential of your child.
You know more about your kids than you think you do, and your spouse knows more than you think he or she does about each child. It just takes a discussion and some questions to pull out things you didn't even know you knew.
You will come up with specific things to work on each month, and they will be your thoughts — you, as the real and only expert on your child — and the things you think of and the inspiration you receive will be much more useful (and much more specifically geared to your child) than anything you will ever find in a parenting book. The real work of parenting is putting together the puzzle that each child represents. They come as they are, and this a perfect time to deal with that on an individual basis.
And the conclusions and discovered needs of your five-facet review will be special material for your specific prayers about each of your children.
Regular five-facet reviews can be a tremendous help in parenting. And the exercise is also a wonderful strengthening influence on a marriage. We often suggest that this is a great way to get dads more involved in the parenting process. They are great problem-solvers.
When two people are working together and thinking together and talking together about something of great value to both of them, it cannot help but draw them closer. As your "parenting partnership" thrives, so will your marriage.
Richard and Linda are the founders of Joyschools.com and New York Times No. 1 best-selling authors who lecture throughout the world on family-related topics. Visit the Eyres anytime at www.TheEyres.com or at www.valuesparenting.com or read Linda's blog at www.deseretnews.com/blog/81/A-World-of-Good.html. Their three latest books are "The Entitlement Trap," "5 Spiritual Solutions" and "The Three Deceivers." Listen to their weekly radio show on Mondays at 4:30 at www.byuradio.org.