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Deen Family Strategic Planning 2018

At the end of every year, I bring my family together for a family strategic planning meeting. As I wrote more extensively about in this blog post, family strategic planning sets direction, helps manage family resources, and sets family members up for success.

26170236_10156104720323573_7933505914530801455_o This is why we take the time to go out of town, recharge and relax, before heading into a meeting that allows us to revisit what we’ve done in the past and where we plan to go, moving forward. Ideally, the goals set at the strategic family planning meeting are then followed up at monthly family meetings that allow family members to discuss issues and incidents that are important to then, celebrate the wins, learn from the losses, and plan adequately for the future.

This year, however, was a little different. The family voiced out that the core values that we identified–godliness, respect, integrity, perseverance, and excellence–seemed to be driven by performance, and left little room for grace.

“Let’s do a little design thinking,” Catherine, my wife, suggested, “and revisit the core values.”

I was initially hesitant–my vision of core values saw them as values that would stand the test of time, rather like La Salle’s Religio, Mores et Cultura–but the feedback that it was high-pressure and performance-driven could not be ignored. So Caths led us in a Design Thinking exercise that gave us the opportunity to write down different values that were important to each of us. We then categorized them together into groups of similar intention, and grace, God-centered, joy, respect, and excellence were the values that stood out.

26111911_10156107279288573_7766162826156376487_nWe then wordsmithed these values into more tangible content that seemed more relatable and achievable, and these are the results.

In 2018, the Deen family will endeavor to live out:

– Grace-Filled Living
– A God-Centered Lifestyle
– A Joyful Disposition
– Respect in All Relationships
– The Pursuit of Excellence

RESOURCES! If you’d like to try strategic planning for your family, here’s a sample family strategic planning template (in Excel format) that you can use, and  here’s a sample family meeting template that you can use for your monthly meetings. Just replace the section on Family Values with your own, or feel free to adapt ours to suit your family’s needs. Happy new year from the Deens!

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The Deen Family Meeting: A Simple Family Meeting Template

My family and I had our February 2015 family meeting today. It was the first family meeting we had since our strategic planning meeting last January 1.

Holding regular family meetings is a good idea because allows your family the opportunity to sit down as a group to discuss issues and incidents that are important to them. It gives your family a chance to celebrate the wins, learn from the losses, and plan adequately for the future.

This was the agenda of our second family meeting for 2015. It serves as a template for what we discussed during the meeting.

  1. Opening Prayer. We always start by dedicating the family and the meeting to God. We pray for wisdom, clarity, honesty, and humility during this time.
  2. Highlight of the Month. The highlight of the month gives every member of the family an opportunity to talk about something that made him or her particularly happy. We frame it in the context of our family values, so we all see how God helps us become the world-changers we want to become for our glory.
  3. Goals’ Progress Reports. At the start of the year, we set family and individual goals, and this time allows us to review the progress of those goals. As we review the goals, we see how close–or how far–we are from meeting those goals because we can see clearly if we didn’t meet them. We then set clear action items per goal, to help make sure we meet the goals. For example, if one of my goals is to write 12 new songs for 2015, I would need to set time aside to pray and write those songs. (Tuesday nights at 9PM.) If I didn’t do that, I would never get around to writing them.
  4. Challenge of the Month. The Challenge of the Month is a summary of the individual and family goals that we aim to reach for in the next month.
  5. Closing Prayer. As the meeting comes to a close, we dedicate the next month to God, and ask Him for strength and wisdom to help us meet those challenges.

The Bible tells us to “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6) We want our children to grow into world-changers who contribute positively to the world for the glory of God, and giving them the structure, discipline, and example on how to meet their goals in an organized and timely way may be one of the best gifts we can give our children as parents.

If you’d like to start family meetings in your household, I hope this simple template proves helpful as you customize it to meet your family needs.

Image taken from here. No copyright infringement intended.

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How to tell if your family needs a technology policy

Is this a regular picture in your home? Maybe it's time to create a technology policy.
Is this a regular picture in your home? Maybe it’s time to create a technology policy.

Last year, my wife, Catherine, and I, instituted a technology policy in our home to police and guide our children. We felt the need to create and maintain this policy because we were observing our children spending a lot of time of their devices, and choosing to stay home to play, instead of participating in family activities.

According to TIME, research shows that “using next-gen tech in the right ways can make students smarter, more engaged and more creative.

Said research doesn’t quite provide “the right ways” for well-meaning parents looking to tools to improve their children’s curricular and extra-curricular performance. In our situation, our kids were watching questionable videos on YouTube, playing a particular game or app for several hours at a time without breaks, and resisting calls to eat or rest to continue using the technology.

The issues here were, in our opinion:

  1. Excessive time spent on the devices in passive, explicitly non-educational activities
  2. The specific questionable content our children chose to access; and
  3. The potentially negative effect of the devices on their studies and social skills.

In our opinion as parents, this necessitated an intervention, hence our need to create and implement a technology policy. (An important note: these are standards that we, as parents, hold on to; your parental standards may differ from ours, and whatever call you would like make for your children is certainly your call, as your children are different from ours.)

Research already identifies the dangers of the overuse of technology, including addiction, aggression, and regression of social interaction skill. If adults themselves can get addicted, what more children? Nick Bilton writes in the New York Times, “Children under 10 seem to be most susceptible to becoming addicted.” His article, Steve Jobs Was a Low-Tech Parent, notes that “movers and shakers in the field of technology themselves understand the dangers of technology. He writes, “a number of technology chief executives and venture capitalists… strictly limit their children’s screen time, often banning all gadgets on school nights, and allocating ascetic time limits on weekends.”

So how do parents go about deciding whether a technology policy is right for them, and how do they go about making the policy? Caths and I asked ourselves four questions that proved helpful in deciding to create this policy.

1. Does my child exhibit symptoms to show he needs a technology policy? Dr. Jennifer Adair writes in the Christian Science Monitor, “…children learn and grow in many different ways. Too often, tablets, phones, and apps distract rather than support the types of educational experiences young children need most.” Observe your child and ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does he wake up looking to play with the device?
  • Does he want to bring the device everywhere he goes?
  • Does he choose to spend more time with the device than with you or other children?
  • Are the kinds of games and apps he chooses to play, the kind that require full attention, such that interaction with the child is next to impossible?

If your answer to any or more of these questions is Yes, there may be a component of addiction already coming into play, you may want to consider drafting and implementing a technology policy. Dr. Adair writes, “Technology should encourage and even require creative manipulation and social engagement. Just because a device or app is labeled as ‘educational’ doesn’t make it so.” She adds, “Electronics have to take a rest if relationships are suffering.”

2. How much time does my child spend on technology? The Kaiser Family Foundation says today’s “8-18 year-olds devote an average of 7 hours and 38 minutes (7:38) to using entertainment media across a typical day (more than 53 hours a week). The report adds, “because they spend so much of that time ‘media multitasking’ (using more than one medium at a time), they actually manage to pack a total of 10 hours and 45 minutes (10:45) worth of media content into those seven hours.”

Ten hours a day! Even if the device were used to supplement learning in school, those are crazy hours! A properly drafted and implemented technology policy can help you monitor the time devoted to technology use, and bring about a more normal usage pattern.

3. Am I using this device to get out of parenting? My generation grew up in an era of television, and TV was the babysitter of the time, keeping us occupied while our parents went about doing other things that adults do. Today, mobile technology is that babysitter, and it’s a convenient scapegoat for our own inability–or lack of interest–to facilitate the learning process. Dr. Adair writes, “Technology can be a part of that process, but not without people being involved and creating a creative and social experience with the technology.”

If you find that your technology is causing you to spend less time with your child, you aren’t part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. When your child is not on the device, he can be spending that time with you. A technology policy helps us, as parents, remain accountable to the commitment to give adequate quality time and resources to our children and our spouses.

4. Does this technology help my child honor God? Caths and I believe it is our role as parents to provide our children tools and guidance to help them grow to become God-fearing adults who contribute positively to society. Proverbs 22:6 says, “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.”

Technology can be very useful in helping children learn more in school, as well as encourage them on their faith walk, with Bible apps, games, social media connections to other children in church, all available at the tap of a finger. We’ve identified the kind of persons we want our children to grow up to become in our family mission statement, and it gives us accountability as parents to ensure our use of technology helps them become that kind of person.  Our technology policy helps us use our technology in the proper manner.

To summarize, parents should be involved in ensuring the responsible use of technology by their children. If you believe your children are not using technology responsibly, a technology policy is one way towards helping develop the discipline and mindset towards responsible use. I hope these tips help guide you in determining whether your family needs a tech policy. I’ll be sure to write a blog next time offering tips on how to draft a technology policy for your family. Cheers!

[Read our updated policy here.]

Image taken from Dr. Kate Robert’s brilliant blog entry, Giving Technology: Four Tips to Guide Parents. (No copyright infringement intended.) Be sure to check it out!

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The Action Bible

Redemption BC p001-032.inddFor #YouDayTuesday, I offer a different take on the Bible that you or your sons may enjoy. The Action Bible is the Bible in graphic novel format, presenting 215 stories from the Word of God in chronological order. I recently bought it as a present for Nathan and he’s really devouring this book!

The Action Bible is not unlike The Manga Bible in trying to make the Word more accessible to audiences that are more drawn to visual representation than text. The Action Bible claims it is the most complete picture Bible ever, and its chronological presentation makes it easier for you to follow the actual text, if you’re using it as a complement to your Bible reading, like I am.

Brazilian artist Sergio Cariello, who has done work with Marvel (Avengers, War Machine, Daredevil), illustrates The Action Bible so powerfully, making breathtaking images that capture the passion and life behind the Bible stories. I really enjoyed his representation of Creation, The Flood, Esther, and David and Goliath, among others.

If you’re drawn to images more than text, or would like to encourage your kids to look at the Bible in a different light, you may really enjoy The Action Bible.

Official Website

Disclaimer: I did not receive payment in cash or kind for this review.

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Three Reasons Why Your Family Should Plan Strategically Every New Year

20141230_140107At the start of every year, my wife, my two children, and I celebrate the new year as a family. This year, we drove up to Tagaytay and stayed at the PHINMA Training Center, a quiet and secluded Tagaytay facility that was perfect for our family’s Strategic Planning meeting.

This year marks the second year of our family’s strategic planning meeting. As Benjamin Franklin said, “by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” Nobody likes to fail, and the first step towards that horrible conclusion, is the failure to plan. Here are three reasons why your family should strategically plan at the start of every year.

1. Planning sets direction. Speaker and author Steve Maraboli says, “When you establish a destination by defining what you want, then take physical action by making choices that move you towards that destination, the possibility for success is limitless and arrival at the destination is inevitable.”

Define goals for yourself and your family that you can work towards. Once you have these goals in place, it will be easier to identify what needs to be done, and what each member of the family needs to do to get there. What good is all one’s hard work if one doesn’t have a clear goal in mind, or a destination to head towards? Yogi Berra once said, “If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up somewhere else.”

And where do people without a plan end up? Nowhere.

2. Planning helps manage family resources. Having a plan helps couples manage their resources and budgets better. Planning requires we identify the resources–including time and budget–needed to see the goals to completion, and reduce the chance of failure and disappointment later on.

For example, if your family goal for 2015 involves a large expense, you can budget for it on a monthly basis to know how much you need to save. If your child’s individual goal is to learn how to play an instrument, you know that you’ll need to allocate not just the budget, but the cost and time to take your child to the tutor (assuming the tutor doesn’t do home visits). If your goal is to spend time with your family, you can identify how you’ll spend that time, then factor in the time and expense it would otherwise take to do that.

3. Planning sets people up for success. As men and husbands, we must take the lead role in setting our families up for success, especially our wives. When our wives’ goals are clear, we husbands would then know what we have to do to help them get to where they want to go. It sets the stage up for great communication and teamwork.

Family Strategic PlanningJust as importantly, we set our kids up for success. Shannon Alder says, “There is one gift that trumps all other talents—being an excellent parent. If you can successfully raise a child in this day in age to have integrity then you have left a legacy that future generations will benefit from.” Planning and skillful execution of that plan will pay off as you raise children who are better suited for the challenges of life.

If it helps, here is the agenda that our family identified in our strategic planning for this year:

1. Year in Review. For this part, we reviewed 2014, using our family’s Mission Statement and Values as a jump-off point. We asked ourselves to rate ourselves on a scale of 1-10, on how we did in terms of Godliness, Respect, Integrity, Perseverance, and Excellence. We also identified two to three highlights for the year.
2. Technology Policy Review. We reviewed our family’s Technology Policy, which we drafted to help our children discipline themselves in using the family’s various devices. We updated the policy to include a Consequences section, and revised the allowable times on weekends.
3. Family and Individual Goals for 2015. We set individual goals for ourselves (e.g., Nathan to become more organized; Nicki to have better eating habits), and a family goal to save up a certain amount of money by the end of the year.
4. Expenses. We’ll be making separate time to discuss operational expenses (monthly) and capital expenses (big, one-time).

We started and ended our session–and family time–with a word of prayer. Proverbs 16:3 tells us, “Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.” I believe the ultimate success of our plans lies in its ultimate goal: the honor and worship of God. May the LORD bless you as you plan for your families this 2015!

2020 Update:

Here are some resources that can be useful. Download them for free!

1. Family Strategic Meeting Template
2. Family Meeting Template

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Revisiting my role as the “sleepy child whisperer”

The past few days have been difficult. Last weekend, my kids’ two nannies decided to hie away from our employ. They put my daughter, three-year-old Nicki, to bed, then left six-year-old Nathan, who was watching television, packed their bags, and left. No “Thanks for having us,” no tearful goodbyes, nothing. They up and left our kids in our house, with no one else, save Nathan’s nine-year-old cousin, to watch over them. We later learned of the reason as to why they decided to leave, and, well, while I can’t publish it on my blog, it relieves me to know that both nannies did not have issues with us as their employers, with our kids as their main focus of attention, and with the nature of their jobs.

While we have two nannies arriving tomorrow – Thank You, God!! – my beautiful wife Catherine and I have taken turns staying home to be with the kids. My kids are bundles of joy, but we all know that nobody’s perfect, either parent or child. I’ve struggled a bit, but it’s always a good thing to reconnect with your children. You’ll always have work around, but you won’t always have your kids’ childhoods around, so best to enjoy it while you still can. The Bible recommends we dads don’t exasperate our kids, and I’ve been trying my best to ensure that doesn’t happen. They, on the other hand, have continued to pay attention to me, so I think I haven’t completely outgrown my role as father.

Meanwhile, I’m revisiting the book Supernanny by Jo Frost, and it’s reminding me about some solid disciplinary steps to take when my kids (occasionally) misbehave. In particular, it has some solid ideas about bedtime that I’m really interested in reestablishing. My kids, you see, can’t sleep without me. That’s a surefire recipe for disaster, so I’m going to talk to my wife about it tonight. We need our evenings back, and Jo Frost has the master plan for ensuring our evenings belong to us again.

If your child refuses to sleep, Jo Frost says the answer is “The Bedtime Routine,” which “lets your child know there is a consistent pattern to going to bed, which s/he is not going to be able to change or manipulate at will,” and 2) it prepares for sleep in a calming sequence of events that are designed to help her relax.” Sounds good, no?

Her tips include:

  • Keep things as calm as possible. Winding down is important.
  • Tell your child that bedtime is approaching. About ten minutes before you start the routine is good.
  • Give a warm bath. Give a warning before bath begins and before it ends. Enlist the child’s help; praise the child when each stage is completed smoothly.
  • Read your child a bedtime story. (I love this part!) Ask questions to engage their attention. (After the story, the child may want to talk for a while; this is a good time to reassure, praise, and single out good moments.)
  • Give a few minutes’ notice before lights out.
  • Don’t get into the habit of waiting with your child until she falls asleep. (Ouch, sorry.)
  • Lights out! No child will learn how to get  to sleep with the lights on.
  • Don’t leave a stage out of this routine.
  • Be consistent with your partner in this routine. Present a united front.
  • Don’t let your child fall asleep on the sofa and then move him into bed. He may wake up in a panic wondering how he got there.

There are several great ideas in the book, as well as problem/solution situations. (My child can’t sleep alone. My child wakes up in the middle of the night.  My child gets out of bed. My child gets into my bed. My child has nightmares. Etcetera. She has a whole bunch of solutions to these questions, and more. Get the book. It’s awesome.)