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Dropping the Agenda

From the Vault: This article was originally posted on the old IF site on April 7, 2015

We always have an agenda with our kids. Especially during bed time. The bed time routine is a surgically precise itinerary filled with teeth brushing, potty going, and book reading. 

Lately I’ve felt myself having a tough time with our 5-year-old who has the focus of a…5-year-old. Imagine that. The main source of my frustration has simply been me having an agenda and him not complying with that agenda. He’s not being disobedient. He’s just…you know…all over the place. 

Tonight as we got to his room for the book reading portion of the bed time routine, I decided to drop my agenda. Usually this part of the routine goes something like this:

“Chandler, why don’t you pick a book for us to read.”
(Chandler does something with his Legos)
“Chandler please pick a book to read.”
“Dad who do you think would win? Hulk or the Thing?”
“I already told you, Hulk is basically unbeatable. Please pick a boo-”
“What if Batman helped the Thing?”
“I’ll pick a book. How about this one?”
(Chandler plays more with his Legos)

And so on and so forth. Tonight I decided to call on my improv training and I “entered the scene” with no agenda. I started the “scene” by asking him what book he would like to read because that’s the premise of the scene. But when he responded with a question about the Peter Pan show he saw earlier that night, I abandoned my agenda and just listened to him. I focused on only him and made sure to respond directly to what he was saying. I played the conversation like an improv scene, supporting and heightening his ideas. 

What ensued was a really nice conversation filled with a lot of giggles. And eventually he said, “OK let’s read a book.” He then picked a book and we read it. It’s as if because I took the time to focus on him, he became more focused on what I wanted. 

We can’t always drop our agenda to follow the crazy whims of our children. But the more opportunities you can find to let your kids take the lead, the more willing they will be to follow you back.


Author: improvisingfatherhood

Nate Smith has been improvising comedy since 1999 and improvising fatherhood since 2009. Nate performs at the Curious Comedy Theater in Portland, OR. Performing improv comedy keeps him young and raising 2 boys is also keeping him young. Nate is Benjamin Buttoning as we speak.

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