I have 2 teenage kids, the elder of whom is just starting the national examination system. It’s an interesting time for any family. I feel particularly aware that every May for the next four years will be dominated by exams. If they choose to go on to further education we could extend that to the next eight years.
My parents and I had our share of this. May is my birthday month so seven consecutive birthdays were tainted with exam pressure. (This was very much reflected in the heroic magnitude of the end of term parties.)
So what’s my plan? How will we manage exam month?
I’m going to treat them like toddlers. Truth be told, this is my plan for every difficult task regardless of the age and stage of person and it never lets me down.
When did you last behave like a toddler? If you have a mountain to climb and you’re getting nowhere with it give this a go. Here's how it's done...
You can‘t behave like a toddler without back up so you’re going to need a toddler wrangler. A grown up toddler without a wrangler is basically a Kardashian. The wrangler is in charge of required actions. S/he organises food, activities, sleep and playtime. The wrangler is responsible for making these actions both in fitting with the goals and desirable to the toddler.
All the toddler has to do is the current task. In our case it might be revision but for you it could be your daily exercise regime, making time to visit a friend or the business plan that’s going to change your world. It’s the wrangler’s job to remove obstacles and distractions from you so you are free to complete these actions. They set your alarm clock, make sure you're prepped and ready for whatever it is you need to do.
This seems like the wrangler gets a bum deal and could be the recipient of the toddler tantrum if they don’t know the toddler well enough. Bear in mind, however, that you can always be someone else’s toddler wrangler so what goes around will come right back at you.
Of course, the grown ups have a proper word for this. They call it accountability. Simply by asking someone for help you are holding yourself accountable to them. If you fail they will know. If they help you, you’ll feel obliged to work harder to achieve the goal they’re assisting. And in the meantime, they’re pre-empting your problem areas and clearing the path for you.
You may think that you can be your own toddler wrangler but the truth is that most people will shift their priorities several times throughout the day. It's easier to stay on track when you have to supply a progress report.
Is there a natural wrangler in your life? Someone who always knows what’s best and isn’t shy of telling you? Start with them but be specific about your inner toddler’s needs. Choose a small area of your life to be wrangled. Give it a go yourself and wrangle back. There’s something to be learned from both sides of the toddler, sorry - accountability, relationship.
Let me know how you get on. You maybe don't know this but I love reading the responses to the newsletter