Ask the Magic Question: How a Lazy Genius Principle Applies to Parenting

daughter sits on father's lapAs a self-prescribed doer the catchy title, The Lazy Genius Way, caught my attention almost immediately. The title infers, get more done in less time, a value I hold highly. Kendra Adachi’s book is a handbook for every overwhelmed parent and a point of inspiration for those lost in the chaos of a disorganized life. The subtitle, Embrace What Matters, Ditch What Doesn’t and Get Stuff Done, is a clear description of this book’s theme. Kendra comes to the rescue of every person caught between perfectionism and apathy by giving them permission to care about what matters most. If you can manage a way to find time to read it or even better download the audio version and listen, you’ll uncover valuable nuggets of wisdom for daily living.

Ask the Magic Question

My favorite of her 13 lazy genius principles is Ask the Magic Question.  Kendra outlines how to establish a simple habit of asking yourself, what can I do now to make life easier later? By asking this question, simple tasks done today can make tomorrow much easier. She encourages tending to the necessary before it becomes urgent. For example, deciding to prep dinner early in the day helps relieve the stress of late afternoon when kids are tired, hungry, and impatient. Or make morning routines smoother by preparing lunches and packing backpacks the night before. When applied on a regular basis, asking the magic question can transform a frazzled mom into a more confident mom.

I love this concept! But why not take it a little deeper and apply it to something that really matters? Not to negate the whole concept of a New York Times Best Seller; I would not dare to be so presumptuous. However, should every parent’s goal be a life that functions efficiently?  Well, maybe so, if it helps a parent keep his/her sanity during those tumultuous child-rearing years. But character should never be overlooked for sanity’s sake. So, I would suggest an even more magical question, what can I do today to make parenting easier later?

Keep it Simple

Kendra describes the beauty in keeping it simple when answering the magic question and starting with one simple task that sets a situation up to domino into a series of better choices. By preparing a snack platter ahead of time for hungry school-age children she sets the stage for healthy food choices, happier children, and a more peaceful start to a busy afternoon. Parenting is similar in that good habits established early prepare the way for well-adjusted adolescents and teenagers. Following Kendra’s example, I’d suggest making a simple parenting decision today to make life easier later. A basic but powerful decision is to connect with your child daily.

Make Connection a Priority

Making an emotional connection with a child can be the easiest or the hardest part of parenting. Many parents are unprepared for the emotionally taxing burden of connecting with a child. Maybe because of the emotional absence of their own parent or because of the strain of a demanding profession. Connecting requires emotional energy, patience, and time. All of these are difficult to produce in the fast-paced world in which we live. But a wise parent will take the time to figure out how to connect with their child as a matter of investment in the future.

Connection looks different depending on the age and stage of a child. Babies and preschoolers need eye to eye contact, playtime, and lots of attention. Elementary-age kids need guidance with decision making, a listening ear and quality time. Adolescents and teenagers need your presence, your support, your wisdom, and your willingness to talk about taboo subjects. Young adults need a friend, a support system, and your unrelenting and unconditional love. No matter your child’s age, a simple first step to connecting is to practice being present.

Be Present

Being present simply means setting aside all distractions and giving your complete undivided attention to your child. The simple task is to set aside time in the day to be focused on your child alone. Try setting a timer and being totally present for 15 minutes. Being present means no screens, no distracting adult conversations, and no other activity pulling you away. Bedtime is a good time to be entirely present for your child, but it could also be at dinner time or right after school. Of course, if you have several children, it becomes a little more complicated and may require some creative problem solving like giving one child time before bed and another time at the start of the day. But ask yourself, how can I find time today to be present for my child?

Of course, there are many other ways to connect with your child besides being present. You can play a game together, exercise together, share a hobby, cook together or simply bond over a good movie. Discovering your child’s bent and leaning into that activity makes connecting easier.  I have one adult child that loves to debate and longs to pull his dad and me into long conversations on current issues. While this isn’t my favorite activity, I try to engage and be present when our conversations take this turn because I know it’s a great way to connect with him. I’ve consciously decided I will make connecting with my children a priority no matter what their age and no matter what the tactic. This is a decision I made once and continually practice which leads me to my second favorite lazy genius principle, decide once.

Decide Once

Adachi’s lazy genius principle #1 is Decide Once. She implies this as an easy way to simplify decisions that often take up way too much space in your head leaving you worn and frazzled. She recommends deciding once what you will give as a birthday present for every party your child attends. Her choice is a book. She also decides once what she will wear each Monday leaving room for other bigger decisions to occupy her headspace. The concept is simple and easily applied. Why not use that same concept when building character in our children? Decide once that helping hands will be a trait nurtured, modeled, and affirmed in your home. This means everyone helps at dinner, everyone helps with cleanup, everyone helps with unloading groceries, cleaning the house, etc. Helping hands becomes a way of life within your family and before you know it your children are the first to offer a helping hand outside of your home.

Decide once that respecting others will be how your family operates inside and outside of your home. This might mean respecting someone’s privacy, space, or opinions. This also translates into respecting all people no matter race, culture, or political beliefs and is displayed in conversational tones around the dinner table or in passing. Training children to respect friends, family, and neighbors will become second nature because the decision is made once and applied at every opportunity given.

I highly recommend Kendra Adachi’s book. You’ll enjoy her tips for adopting a more organized and efficient lifestyle and even more importantly learn how to invest time and energy on what matters the most to you. As you begin to reflect on what brings you joy and where you want to focus your time and energy consider applying her lazy genius principles to parenting as well. Ask the magic question in relation to your children and begin to discover the lazy way to be a genius at parenting!


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Rebecca M., a mother of three successfully launched adults and recent grandmother to one adorable baby boy {Barrett, 12 months old} has enjoyed working with children her entire life. Over the course of her career, she taught nearly every grade level from preschool to 8th grade in private and public schools. Rebecca’s love of children and passion for education led her to a ministry of supporting young mothers by providing quality childcare. She now directs BELA, BridgePoint Early Learning Academy, a preschool program for infants through pre-kindergarteners. When she is not busy babysitting her grandson or managing BELA, she enjoys writing, gardening, swimming, and planning events. Married to David, her biggest supporter, friend, and companion for 31 years, Rebecca considers the strength of her family to be her number one life accomplishment and finds her greatest joys come from pouring into the lives of those she loves and serves.

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