Updated: Aug 26, 2021
This weekend my wife and I gave each of our kids a ‘mid year parent review’ they had to complete in order to get their allowance. It was a 20 question survey about how my wife and I are doing as parents and areas to improve on. We got some good laughs like when my 8 year old (who turns 9 tomorrow) in response to the question “What are some areas where I can improve as your dad?” he wrote “not be a weirdo.” I laughed hysterically when reading it, and my wife said, “Good luck with that one!”
We also got some great answers and some incredibly honest and helpful feedback. My 8 year old in response to the question “What do you want most from me?” simply wrote “hugs”. It was interesting to hear that from him since he is typically the least affectionate of our kids. However, it seems that deep down he really likes it. He also responded to the question “What do you wish I would say more often?” with “good job.” My wife and I were discussing it last night and were reminded of the Hierarchy of Needs that once a kid's basic needs are met of food, shelter, and safety, one of their highest needs is to feel appreciated and be acknowledged. And not just flattery like telling them every little thing they do is amazing, but giving them specific examples of things they are doing that make us proud. I really don’t think it is something kids ever get tired of hearing. It was such a great reminder to me when I had seen that he had written that answer down.
To the question "Do you trust me in everything?" this same 8 year old replied "nah." I followed up later with him to clarify, and he said it's because I make up stories about my scars and scratches (usually involving being attacked by a wild animal or critter while doing something dangerous and brave and modestly heroic). So maybe I should tone down the sarcasm, dad jokes, and pranks, but I can't completely eliminate it. I think we can arrange a fair tradeoff.
Since our 5 year old is still working on his writing and reading, we gave him an oral exam. One of the areas of improvement he suggested is that we give him less cotton candy, ha! Can’t remember the last time he had it, but we got a good laugh out of that one. We did learn that he wants to learn more math, golf, and reading and that he knows we love him "because mommy carried him around in her belly."
Our 13 year old son also had some great feedback. To the question “What is one thing you wish I would stop doing?” he replied “thinking my brothers being messy is ok.” He followed up another question saying that I am 'WAY' too soft on his younger brothers. My wife and I are both the exact opposite of lazy and there are many times we get into the doing, cleaning, or organizing mode of chores around the house, and I admit there are times it is just easier to clean up a mess ourselves than have our kids do it. It gets done quicker, there is no lecturing, and the kids don’t start whining or fighting. The quicker we can get it done, the quicker we can move on to the next thing we have to do. However, as my eldest pointed out, it’s not a great example to set for them, and it only re-enforces the bad habits and cripples their independence and growth. What is easier in the short run will be very costly in the long run. Even though my wife and I both KNOW what we should be doing, it is still hard to be strong in the moment by being firm and fair about our expectations for them to be responsible and to take responsibility. Writing it here will help ME be more accountable as well!
To the question “What do you wish I would say more often?” my oldest son said “let’s hangout.” Even though I work from home and rarely travel, pick him up from practice every day, coach most of his teams, and am very involved in his day to day life, I don’t think kids ever kid tired of wanting to spend time with their parents. He is 13 and going through all of the challenges of being a teenager, but I was honored that he still wants to hang out with me. We used to do ‘man night’ when he was younger and we would go get BBQ or soul food and then stay up and play video games. He referenced in 3 other questions that he wants more ‘man nights’ which we will be re-implementing for sure.
For my oldest son, I have been exploring various ways to help create a 'rite of passage' for him. To encourage him, challenge him, and help him guide himself through the journey of going from a boy to a young man. By giving him freedom, guidance, and involvement along the way, I believe he will have many fantastic 'rites of passage' in his journey.
To the question “Do I hug you enough?”, all 3 boys answered “not really.” So along with the words of affirmation, the physical touch of hugs from your parents can’t be overdone. For the question “Do I make your mom happy or sad? And do we fight too much?”, they each answered “Happy, and no, you don’t fight” so that was re-affirming to hear that at least we are setting a good example of a husband and wife.
Before I gave the kids the mid-year review, I wasn’t sure how helpful it would be. However, I was blown away by how simply and directly they answered the questions on what they saw as areas of improvement. I think as parents, spouses, employees, business owners, friends, family members, and humans, we over-complicate what we need to do in order to improve the quality of our lives. But even through the eyes of a 5,8, and 13 year old, the solution can really be quite simple. I am so glad that I didn’t get this information from them 5-10 years down the road, and I can start working today on being a better dad and do it in a way that directly responds to what they need and want from me. I know I will screw up my kids somehow someway, but I do want them to know that everyday I worked harder at being a better dad for them. And, hopefully, that will be a confidence anchor that they can carry with them for the rest of their life.
Here are the 20 questions we asked our kids (taken from an All Pro Dad email)