Management by Walking Away

IMG_0528Those of us of a certain age remember the concept called Management by Walking Around discussed in Peters and Waterman’s classic, In Search of Excellence. Well, I coined a new phrase today – I’ve decided to practice Management by Walking Away.

You see, I’ve realized that the teenaged members of my household do not take responsibility for their “stuff”. And furthermore, my badgering and constant reminders enable their incompetence.

Working at home means I’m available to deliver the forgotten gym shoes or musical instrument to school. To provide a ride when they miss the activity bus. To keep their schedules, and make sure they have a snack before the game. Problem is, they do not, cannot, seem to manage these things on their own.

I have a plaque in my home that reads, “Prepare the child for the path, not the path for the child.” I’m not the mom who orchestrates the path, for sure, but I’m definitely questioning how prepared my children need to be if they know mom is always there to keep them on the path in the first place.

Maybe it’s Mother’s Day blowback, or my having just passed on an opportunity I wasn’t entirely sure I didn’t want. Or perhaps just general fatigue. Whatever the catalyst, I’m completely, decidedly fed up. So I’m walking away.

This strategy is not without some risk. I expect a few failing grades, a few forgotten items, a few missed appointments. But I can no longer care more than my subordinates do about their own responsibilities.

Failure hurts. But it also teaches. Prepare, children, for the lesson.

14 thoughts on “Management by Walking Away

  1. Oh, a typo! It should be “Prepare the child for the bath”, right, not “for the path”?
    Was that silly enough to cheer you up a little bit? No more general fatigue and being fed up?

    If nothing else helps, I turn to “management by hopping up and down”. Preferably on a trampoline.


    1. This did cheer me up, and also make me think, “Prepare the child for the wrath, math…” And then I turned to the treadmill to work out my aggressions. Thank you!


    2. I love that. I have to admit I do often prepare the child/bath both ways around.

      There’s a delicate balance between caring enough to do and caring enough to not do, and I guess it’s ever changing. If you’ve got any reports on how this went (at a later date) then do tell…


      1. It is a balance. Sometimes a child can’t navigate on their own because they don’t have the skills, but I think my children are capable – they’re just making inadvisable choices. I’ll let you know how it goes. So far one has risen to the challenge, one has rebelled, and one isn’t doing anything differently at all.


        1. That runs the full gamut!

          Yes, being capable obviously makes a difference. I guess I’m thinking of a “language of love” type thing as well – you know the motherly cliche where you have to hover to show you care?

          And yet pushing them towards independence can also be a language of love, it’s about subtle things like intentions and communication and reasonable give and take.


  2. I don’t know how it happened, but somehow the child who couldn’t get out of bed without my intervention (despite several alarm clocks going off) went off to college, made it to classes, finals, law school, and work every day. Somehow her sister who couldn’t complete an assignment until I had badgered, threatened, and coerced her now is a successful writer who juggles myriad projects. Somehow her brother who had to have his lunch money doled out daily because he couldn’t manage it over the space of a week now has a new house and car. They all have clean clothes, eat regularly, and still like me.

    So don’t give up hope, because as far as I can tell, they will master all that life path stuff. It just won’t happen until the day after they leave home.

    And because somehow Mother’s Day just gets better every year.


  3. Sarah, All I know is that the repercussions from forgetting stuff are much less damaging while in one’s teens than in adulthood. Better that life lessons are learned when the blow-back is not as severe. Failing when younger is a wonderful preparation for success when older. It is just really hard to watch. Good Luck. Know that in 10 years you will be amazed at how wonderful your kids are. Really. Julie


    1. Agreed. I hate to say it, but my kids need to fall on their faces a few times to get the message. I am a conscientious person, so it’s hard to stand idly by and let them slop through their days.


  4. I think your plan is bold and brave but also essential! It’s hard to not organize the kids but if we continue to do it, knowing they won’t, than how can they learn better organizational skills!? I need to do this too. Great post!


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