Synergy: The sum of the parts is greater than the whole!
5 Steps to Synergy:
  • Define the situation or problem.
  • Listen to their way.
  • Share your way.
  • Brainstorm new ways.
  • Take the high way!
In our families, classrooms, or businesses, synergy builds unity, cooperation, health, and success. The key is to affirm the strengths and struggles of every team player and stick close together to achieve a goal. Synergy is about celebrating different ideas, not tolerating them. It is about teamwork, not me work. Though you may be right, you aren’t always. Most of all, it is about innovation and gleaning from every person involved to create the best.
Another great benefit to synergy is that we won’t have to take on the entire burden of a task. Cyclists who are part of the peloton can save up to 40 percent in energy expenditures compared to a cyclist who is not drafting with the peloton. This is one of the primary purposes of our parent participation with the school. If we work together to raise our children we are much more likely to be effective and not get too exhausted working alone. At AACA, we promote this effort and commit to a patient, persistent, and positive approach to child development. Here are a few ways we can encourage synergy with our children:
Heart – when siblings scuffle, have them play a game together
Mind – alternate between you and your child in the creation of a story
Body – calculate the time it takes to do chores alone versus working together
Soul – talk to your child about the beauty in the sound of a symphony versus a solo
“Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.” -Helen Keller
“When mutual understanding and respect are present, the spirit of synergy inevitably starts to develop.” -Stephen Covey

Seek First to Understand, Then Be Understood

We have two ears and one mouth for good reason. Listening intently is sometimes difficult because we tend to have our own thoughts and advice that we want to impart – especially as a parent. Affirming the ideas and feelings of our children is a powerful step toward teaching our children. When children believe that we care and are willing to listen they are more open to guidance and direction. Listening allows us a little more time to think more wisely about the wisdom we are about to impart. 
An effective strategy to practicing this habit is to ask questions instead of imposing answers. By asking questions we gather more understanding and our children have greater faith in our desire to truly understand their point of view. Ninety-five percent of what we say comes from the nonverbal messages sent by our expressions, tone, and posture. Re-posturing our bodies and expressing empathy can immediately cause brains to respond more clearly and minimize an unhealthy reaction. Responding to the thoughts of others is much more productive than it is to react to them. Here are a few ways to practice this habit this week:
  • Heart – gently consider a child’s perspective
  • Mind – intentionally ask three questions before responding
  • Body – lower your posture and eye contact to (or below) a child’s eye level when you are listening to their thoughts and feelings
  • Soul – with empathy and compassion ask “why?”
“It is the province of knowledge to speak. And it is the privilege of wisdom to listen.” -Oliver Wendell Holmes “Somewhere we know that without silence words lose their meaning, that without listening speaking no longer heals, that without distance closeness cannot cure.” -Henri Nouwen
“Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.” -James A. Baldwin

Discipline: To Teach and to Learn

Relate & Redirect – Our goal as parents and educators is to teach so that our children will deeply learn. The first step to teaching is to relate
to the disposition of the learner. This takes questioning so that we can understand why and how a child made the decision he/she made. Once we can relate to the situation it is then productive to redirect the behavior. Trying to do this in the opposite order tends to backfire. When a child (or an adult) is upset, frustrated, or confused – redirecting them first may just cause further trouble. Using the phrase, “help me to understand” can allow a child to name the problem and begin a thoughtful resolution to tame the behavior. Dr. Daniel Siegel uses the phrase “Name It to Tame It” to describe the neurological process that will make our kids smarter in times of trouble.
Learning Links

Think Win-Win!

The Golden Rule – Do unto others as you would want done unto you.
Thinking win-win starts with a belief that people want to do what is right and are willing to work together to achieve what is in the best for the common good. It doesn’t always mean that it’s 50:50 though. Friendship, marriage, and business partnerships require 90:10 or 10:90 at times. Good communication, compromise, and mutual support balance relationships over time and everyone is better off in the end. There is an old story about two horses tethered together trying to eat from their own feeder. Each pulled the other, yanking the other away from the feeder. After a long back and forth struggle, they finally realized that sharing each other’s feeder would save a lot of strife and allow both of them to enjoy a peaceful meal.
Try out the AACA Problem Solving Creativity System:
  • Describe the problem. What happened and how did you feel?
  • Define the goal. What do you wish would have happened instead?
  • List the obstacles. What kept us from achieving the goal?
  • Consider new strategies. What could we do differently the next time this happens?
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of the strategy. Could or did our strategy work?
One of the best consequences of thinking win-win is that it grows healthy long term relationships because we are willing to support one another – even when we may not be our best selves. On top of that, a stressed “win-lose” brain doesn’t learn well. Our brains have 100,000,000,000 neurons. Our intelligence and imagination have endless potential to nurture win-win solutions. It starts with trust and an ounce of courage and in the end, everyone wins.
Habit Practice
  • Heart – Use to above Problem Solving Creativity System to discuss a family frustration.
  • Mind – Tell your children about a story from literature or history when the victory was a win-win. Read the story How Full is Your Bucket? by Carol McCloud
  • Body – Create a dinner that provides a favorite for each member of the family.
  • Soul – Split the radio time in the car between each passenger’s favorite genre.
“Strong people don’t put others down…they lift them up.” – Michael Watson
“You don’t have to blow out the other person’s light to let your own shine.” -Bernard M. Baruch
“The law of win-win says, ‘Let’s not do it my way or your way; let’s do it the best way’.” – Gary Anderson
Learning Links

Put First Things First

What does it really mean when we say “no” to our children? Most of the time, it means “YES” to something more important. Putting first things first in life means that we are choosing to put lesser things later or maybe never. One of my favorite lessons in the Middle School Pathways program is the rocks and sand exercise (the Pickle Jar video). It is a clear metaphor for getting our priorities straight and finding ways to be more intentional about our life and likely, being able to achieve more than we may have thought possible. Happy and successful people are great at spending their time and talent on what is most important to them, heart, mind, body, and soul.
Help your children to examine their “firsts” by asking them about each of the AACA colors:
  • Heart – Who are the most important people in your life?
  • Mind  – What topics do you enjoy learning about most?
  • Body – How do you like to spend time physically? (favorite sports, hobbies… )
  • Soul  – Why are you so special?
The other important message tied to this week’s habit is knowing what is important and urgent and what is important but not urgent. Sorting the tasks and activities in our lives between these two ideas helps to keep our plates from feeling to heavy and full. I encourage you to identify priorities in your life and your children’s by writing them down and deciding as a family how you can best use the precious asset of your time.
“The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” – Stephen Covey
“Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.” – Goethe
Learning Links