David Trinko: A performance improvement plan for parents

If we’re really honest with ourselves, there’s always room for improvement.

What father hasn’t wished he handled an argument about bedtime differently? What mother hasn’t wished she guided a child through homework without a spat?

Fortunately for my family, our 8-year-old daughter was kind enough to generate a performance improvement plan for my wife.

My wife was doing some work at home one evening last week. She was designing performance improvement plans, the new-school term for what we used to call punishments. In her document, there’s a chart of what you can do to complete your job better.

Our 8-year-old patiently watched my wife working on this and asked a few questions about its purpose and how it’s designed. Then she came up with a handwritten spreadsheet of her own, five columns wide by three columns deep, with 15 suggestions for better performance as a mother. It’s even labeled across the top as her improvement plan.

It’s honestly not a bad list:

•Be nice to children.

•Don’t yell a lot.

•Let children get stuff.

•Be nice to dogs.

•Let children go to Grandma’s.

•Get working.

•Don’t say cuss words.

•Let children upgrade to Xbox Gold.

•Do not ask children to do chores.

•Go out to eat more.

•Play with children.

•Don’t cheat.

•Get children popcorn from Shirley’s all the time.

•Get the weekend off.

•Clean the house with children.

It’s a little hard to swallow that kind of honesty out of a child. We all want to be good parents. We all think we’re trying our best. It can be hard there on a third-grader’s chart, looking through the faults they’ve found in your parenting.

My wife looked through the list. Column D, Row 1, the item about being nice to our dogs, caught her off-guard the most, since she’s quite patient with our occasionally raucous dogs. The rest are fairly typical requests from children of their parents.

We’re trying to take the document as seriously as we would an evaluation at work. It is important for children to know they’re loved and respected. We both know we work too hard from home, both in the evenings and on weekends, and we’re both working to curtail that.

We’re trying to put them first more often. We’re trying to maintain that delicate balance between work and home. We’re trying to follow these well-meaning, loving guidelines from a “supervisor” who truly does want us to succeed.

I’m still waiting for my performance improvement plan from the children. I haven’t received mine yet, which leads me to think I’m either the perfect father, or I’m just about to be fired.

I’ll keep praying it’s just a sign that I’m doing a fine job. But it never hurts to try to do an even better job, just to impress the bosses.

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By David Trinko

[email protected]

David Trinko is managing editor of The Lima News. Reach him at 567-242-0467, by email at [email protected] or on Twitter @Lima_Trinko.