Contact Us

Use the form on the right to contact us.

We would love to hear your questions and comments about Brili.

           

123 Street Avenue, City Town, 99999

(123) 555-6789

email@address.com

 

You can set your address, phone number, email and site description in the settings tab.
Link to read me page with more information.

Optimizing Kids' Routines

Blog

Optimizing Kids' Routines

Pierre Séguin

Knock wood, our mornings work well at our place now. For the past few weeks, we've been using Brili in our home to help Leo through his routines, and every morning has run unbelievably smoothly. Here are some highlights:

  • Leo loves starting his days by hitting the "Let's Get Started!" button on the iPad - no whining about getting out of bed;
  • He's off like a rocket as soon as the timer starts, no complaints, no dawdling;
  • Everything gets done thoroughly, because otherwise, I send Leo back to correct shortcomings and he has figured out this cuts into his free time reward.
  • Every morning so far, he's been ready to leave the house before me.

It's not just successful in our home. We've also been testing Brili in the natural habitats of other kids and parents and here is some of the feedback we're getting from different moms:

[My son] loves Brili! It’s very motivating and really has been working as intended (I think!). I haven’t had to nag him to get any of his chores done, and he really takes pride in completing the tasks independently.
...he is still using it, and it works well every time. He said the other day that he wanted a day off, LOL, and that morning was a mess! He is able to run the whole routine on his own. [His sister] says they need more time to pack their lunch and she needs a hair brushing time slot, so cool that they figured that stuff out. I can’t wait to do a home from school and a bed time routine. We will definitely be continuing. Thanks so much for creating this program!
So, Brili is making me look bad!! [My son] was ready and out the door this morning before I was. He was a little resistant at first but I caught him getting in to it as the morning went on. It was very nice for me to to have to be on top of him all the time - and I’m sure it was nice for him too.

At first glance, Brili would seem to be working because kids always know what to do next, and each element is time-boxed, so they're motivated to stay on task and finish before the chime sounds. But we're starting to realize there are other principles at work.

"What gets measured, gets managed."

A management theorist your kids probably haven't heard of: Peter Drucker

A management theorist your kids probably haven't heard of: Peter Drucker

I love this quote, not spoken not by a child behaviour expert, but by legendary management theorist Peter Drucker. The principle certainly applies to areas of life outside of running companies.

For example, if you weigh yourself weekly, you're more likely to stay at a healthy weight. We're also seeing people exercise more, willingly, thanks to tracking technologies like Fitbit and Nike+. The idea of better control over our lives through awareness underpins the quantified self movement that has lately become so prevalent.

When the idea for Brili first came to us, we were very focused on showing kids (and parents) what's next in a fun and engaging way. But as we started using it, we realized a big benefit was understanding what happened in a clear and quantifiable way.

For example, this chart is based on Leo's data:

Leo's average task durations, estimated versus actual.

Leo's average task durations, estimated versus actual.

As you can see, our estimates seemed to be pretty generous for most tasks, but this suggests he currently needs more time for putting his lunch in his school bag and getting dressed. We could easily reallocate the time from making bed / tidying room, which he seems to be doing pretty quickly every day.

But how do we really know we should be adding time to tasks versus encouraging him to do them more quickly? Obviously, parents should be relying on their own observations and judgment, but a way to reinforce these would be to look at trends:

Leo's Routine Task Durations, Nov 25th to December 10th.

Leo's Routine Task Durations, Nov 25th to December 10th.

So right off, I'll mention this caveat - this is just 4 days' worth of data recorded over 2 1/2 weeks. This is due to Leo living at his mom's place every second week and the fact I initially didn't think to separate his user account from the test account, which Kyle and I routinely clear for testing purposes. So, sadly, most of his first full week of usage got deleted. (The only reason I have the November 25th data is because I ran reports that day for my last post.)

So assuming you have a sufficient amount of history, you can look for "bulges" or unusual peaks in the data. From that, it should be possible to get a sense of what's behind the average times. You can tell whether they were affected by an anomaly (like the 6 mins 30 seconds Leo took to get dressed on December 1st) or by steady results.

In addition, if a routine item is clearly trending towards improvement, you might want to reduce the time on the clock to keep it interesting for your kid and give him or her a chance to take on more responsibility. Leo did just that this week, by asking for a new task to make his own breakfast!

I'm totally nerding out here, but we can use stats to rank his tasks by how much they vary, relative to their average duration. I wouldn't say in my case that I have enough data points to act on the table below alone, but it will be another good metric to help figure out which tasks need to have their time allotments adjusted, versus those where we need to wait and see.

Leo's duration data table, sorted by coefficient of variation.

Leo's duration data table, sorted by coefficient of variation.

I'm a visual person, so my favourite approach to analyzing a particular task in the routine is to graph each one's actual duration over time, relative to the estimate and draw some conclusions, like this:

Looks like Leo could be ready to reduce the target by 1 minute, but I won't do this because I don't want him to rush through brushing teeth just yet.

Looks like Leo could be ready to reduce the target by 1 minute, but I won't do this because I don't want him to rush through brushing teeth just yet.

December 1st may have been an anomaly (probably because he ran out of clean clothes), but I think I'll give Leo an extra minute for getting dressed, just to ensure he's consistently successful at first.

December 1st may have been an anomaly (probably because he ran out of clean clothes), but I think I'll give Leo an extra minute for getting dressed, just to ensure he's consistently successful at first.

I'd say Leo is ready for me to take a minute off of his "tidy room" timer because he's been consistently getting through it under his time allotment, and doing it well.

I'd say Leo is ready for me to take a minute off of his "tidy room" timer because he's been consistently getting through it under his time allotment, and doing it well.

It's becoming evident that by giving us these new ways to look at routines, Brili will prove to be a wonderful tool for helping kids succeed right away and then continue to improve over time with our help.

Setting Kids Up For Success

Brili isn't just telling us how our kids are doing, but also how we parents are doing at helping them succeed. We have to help our kids structure their routines and give them reasonable time frames for getting things done. But we're not perfect at this. When we start, we don't really know to within a minute how quickly our child is already completing a task.

My suggestion is to be pretty generous when first setting up Brili, padding task times by maybe 20% compared to your first guess. Let kids run through the routine a couple of times and start getting actual durations, then consider making adjustments. The last thing we want is to cause frustration or disappointment because we didn't give them enough time.

Correcting For Parent Factors

Our kids depend on us for some parts of their routines. For example, a kid will get slowed down when they get dressed if he has run out of clean clothes. In our case, Leo depends on us to set out his vitamins and medication. If we slip up and forget to have things prepared for Leo, it affects his time and we all notice it.

Look at "Take Vitamins" in the table a few paragraphs back. Ouch - that variability is my fault for not always remembering to set out his pills before his breakfast. But it's OK - now I've learned from the data that there's an area in need of improvement that's within my control and I need to own it.

I could ramble on about how eye-opening Brili has been to me as a parent, and about all of the possibilities I see, but I need to save some material for upcoming posts!

What do you think? Will having this kind of data help you as a parent? What other ways of looking at the data would be useful to you?