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:
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."
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:
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:
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.
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:
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?