Slightly over a year ago, I had the opportunity to enroll in Organizational Behavior. This is a course that is required for my M.A. in Public and Nonprofit Administration and it’s a course that I’ve found to be helpful in preparing myself for the new economy. The text for the course was Reframing Organizations: Artistry, Choice, and Leadership by Lee G. Bolman and Terrence E. Deal. Bolman and Deal believe that most management problems can be solved by applying one of four frames; structural, human resources, political, or symbolic.
As with many online courses, there was a required discussion component and one particular week I was really struggling to think of a professional example to apply these frames to, but I was able to successfully apply these frames to a parenting situation I was in. My oldest daughter was learning how to use the toilet. As this is a critical skill for her to master as she moves through her life, I was eager for her to master it. On the day the discussion post was due, I happened to be home with my children due to illness in the daycare and the day had been really challenging and a certain amount of evaluation was necessary. I took advantage of nap time to do this evaluation so that the second half of the day ran a lot more smoothly.
Looking through the structural frame, the distribution of rewards and penalties to control performance has been rapidly shifting. We have gone from getting an M&M every time she sits on the toilet to no treats if she’s sitting on the toilet following an accident. In addition, the grievous consequence of missing “Mickey and the Roadster Racers” has been implemented.
From a human resource perspective, Elizabeth and I had several conversations designed to help her grow & improve in this skill. Topics covered in our conversation include the consequences to others when she has an accident (others in this case also include the characters on her underwear) and what we can do together so she doesn’t forget to say something when she needs to use the toilet.
From a political perspective, Elizabeth had the opportunity to exercise power over herself. It’s a great opportunity for her to develop autonomy. It is also a good opportunity for me to exercise power in a somewhat unusual way. Rather than being powerful in a dictatorial sense, I used my power to empower others.
Symbolically, there are roles we both play in the rituals around toilet use. We each have a role to play so that she can learn the order of things. I pull up the stool to the toilet, she climbs on and prepares to sit down. I read some type of toilet-time related story (What is Poop? is a current favorite). When she goes I ask for a high five, help her clean up, and then she flushes and picks out a sticker to put on her chart. We wash our hands, saying in a singsong fashion “Goodbye germs, see you never!”
Teaching anyone a new skill, regardless of how elementary you may view that skill to be, involves a lot of evaluation and patience along the way so that the skill is learned successfully and everyone keeps their sanity in the process.