Planet Lean: The Official online magazine of the Lean Global Network
Empowering children to navigate life’s challenges

Empowering children to navigate life’s challenges

Sérgio Caldeirinha
April 11, 2023

FEATURE – In this new series, the author will walk us through some uncommon ways to apply lean – with a particular focus on establishing productive and enjoyable relationships. In the first instalment, he introduces the concept of lean parenting.


Words: Sérgio Caldeirinha, President, Lean Academy Portugal


As parents, we all want our children to become strong, capable, and self-assured adults. We want them to be prepared to meet life's problems head-on and to have the resources they need to overcome challenges and accomplish their objectives. However, knowing how to best prepare our children for what lies ahead in an unpredictable and chaotic world can be difficult.

This is when “lean parenting” comes into play. Inspired by the concepts of Lean Thinking, which emphasizes continuous improvement and waste elimination, lean parenting is a framework for raising children that focuses on empowering them to become problem solvers and critical thinkers.

Lean parenting has a lot of advantages. By teaching our kids how to tackle challenges methodically and systematically, we are giving them skills that will be of great use to them throughout their lives. Once they interiorize those skills, whenever they want to achieve a result or solve a problem, they will be able to discover the causes behind it (or reasons why), create hypotheses, test them, and iterate on their solutions. These skills are useful not only in academic and professional contexts, but also in interpersonal interactions and daily life.

How can parents use lean parenting practices within their own families, then? The A3 problem-solving report, which offers an organized method for recognizing and addressing challenges, is one such tool. By using the A3 approach together with their kids, parents can teach them how to describe a problem clearly, collect the relevant data and analyze it, devise solutions, and monitor progress over time.

Visual management practices like Kanban or 5S are other powerful resources in the lean parenting toolbox. Parents can assist their children in developing organizational and time-management skills that will benefit them in all facets of their lives by helping them to create a visual representation of tasks and priorities.

Lean parenting is primarily helpful in assisting our children in developing a growth mentality. We can help them to build resilience and grit, two qualities that are necessary for success in every area of life, by encouraging them to see obstacles as opportunities for learning and progress.

So, lean parenting offers a powerful strategy for developing individuals who are ready to take on the challenges of the 21st century. Giving our kids the skills that they need to be problem solvers and critical thinkers means they will be equipped to deal with any challenge standing between them and success.

Lean tools for kids

PARENTING LITERATURE AND LEAN THINKING

For those searching for some formal reading on this subject, I can recommend Parenting the Lean Way: Practical Solutions for Busy Moms by Dawn W. Morris, which provides useful tips for working parents on anything from building good relationships with their children to organizing the house schedule.

If you want to start practicing your lean parenting skills, Morris even includes several exercises and activities that parents and children can do together to promote a lean and simple lifestyle. Below are a few examples. As I read about them, I was struck by how each of them has a corresponding idea, principle, or technique from the “traditional” lean toolbox.

  1. With The One-Month Challenge, families are urged to devote one month to improving a single aspect of their lives, such as their home, their routine, or their food. They collaborate over the course of the month on implementing small, gradual adjustments that result in a simpler, more organized existence. If you are on a lean transformation, chances are you started by experimenting in a model line – an opportunity to test out a leaner system and see whether it can be replicated elsewhere. If you do give the One-Month Challenge a try, you’ll be able to see whether this way of living works for you and your family.
  2. The Family Meeting. In this activity, a weekly family meeting is scheduled during which everyone shares their plans, priorities, and ambitions. Families can lessen stress and strengthen their bonds by cooperating and being open with one another. Daily huddles, morning meetings, hoshin review meetings… you name it, lean has it. In the lean world, we are no strangers to the importance of getting together and talking during a well-structured and focused meeting.
  3. The Decluttering Challenge encourages families to go through their possessions and get rid of everything that isn't necessary or significant anymore. By downsizing, families can minimize clutter and create a more calm, tidier home. 5S, is that you?!

The overall goal of these exercises and activities is to simplify family life, lessen stress, and strengthen connections – much like the goal of their corresponding lean practices is to simplify working life, lessening burden for workers, and boosting collaboration. These tools provide families with doable, practical actions they may carry out to live a leaner existence.

Another great resource is Joel Gross's blog, The Frugal Dad, in which he discusses frugal living and other issues such as lean parenting. He has provided advice and tactics for streamlining family life and lowering stress in various writings on the topic of lean parenting. Overall, his blog may provide helpful guidance for parents who want to streamline their life and pay attention to what matters most.

Whether it is blogs or books, the literature on raising children is full of advice that can be likened to and, certainly, enriched by a lean approach. For years, we have heard how lean easily applies to any human endeavor. In this brief article – and in the others that will follow (in the next piece, I will discuss practical lean tips for newborns to five-year-old children) – we have seen how its principles can even apply to parenting, arguably the most important and challenging of all endeavors. Why not give them a try? Your children will appreciate it, and society will, too.

Download your A3 for kids template here.

For article 2, on lean parenting of children 0 to 5, click here.


THE AUTHOR

Sergio Caldeirinha
Sérgio Caldeirinha is President of Lean Academy Portugal.


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