Editor’s note: Over the next several weeks, the Eyres are sharing what they consider the best parenting ideas they have come across during their three decades of writing to and speaking with parents worldwide. Portions of this column have been previously published. See their previous columns on deseretnews.com.
There is one method we suggest to parents almost every time we speak. It is a mental method, actually — a method for marshaling other methods, a method that is a direct manifestation of specific concerns for each individual child. It's a parenting method that also strengthens marriages — a method we have placed at the center of our marriage and our family for decades.
We call it a “five-facet review,” and it works like this: Once a month (it’s best if there is a set day, such as the first Tuesday or the second Friday), go on a “date” with your spouse if you are a two-parent family or with someone else who really knows and loves your children if you are a single parent. Go to dinner in a relatively quiet place where you are unlikely to be disturbed, and have only one item on your agenda: your children.
Structure your discussion around the five facets of each of your children, one at a time: How is Josh doing physically? How is he doing mentally? How is he doing socially? How is he doing emotionally? How is he doing spiritually?
As you ask each other these questions, they will lead to a powerfully proactive discussion. Probe and dig deep. On the physical question, think through everything from his health to his physical gifts or abilities. On the mental question, discuss not only how he is doing in school but also how his brain works, how he processes information, and what he is good at and what he is not. On the social question, get into friends, shyness, social aptitude and politeness. On the emotional question, talk about moods, signs of depression, temper and so on. And on the spiritual question, discuss where his heart is and how secure he is in his beliefs.
Look for potential problems, but also for aptitudes and gifts and talents that need to be developed.
Brainstorm. As you get into this kind of discussion, something one of you says may spark a thought in the other, and you will be able to develop fresh and valuable insights about each of your children.
As you brainstorm, take notes. When you recognize a challenge or a need (or an opportunity), decide how to deal with it and who will handle it. It works best to have a special notebook or journal that you bring with you each time you have your monthly five-facet review. As you start each session, read back through your notes from last month, check whether you followed through, and decide which things from your notes still need your attention.
You will finish your review each month with a clearer picture of each child and a more specific commitment and a more sharply focused love for him or her. This exercise, when rigorously followed, will yield more insight and more behavioral effect than anything you could read in a parenting book. Each child is unique, and you, the parents, are the only ones who can become an expert on that particular child. Answers and ideas will come in this time dedicated to analyzing and thinking about these children you love.
And the bonus will be a strengthening of your marriage. Nothing is better for a relationship than working together on a project or an objective that you both value and love. Teaming up mentally in this kind of a five-facet review of your children will draw you closer to each other and create a certain emotional synergy that is good for any marriage.