Dancing with Elves

“Human interaction is a game, a dance, a playful thing that is deeply satisfying in itself” – John Gall

I got to read John Gall’s “Dancing with Elves” after reading his well known “Systems Bible” (for which I’ll blog another time). The book deals with strategies that one can use in order to influense kids in a positive way so as to achieve what the parent wants the kid to achieve. By that we do not mean to pre-plan the child’s life and then watch as the plan gets executed. This is not the plan. The plan is to overcome furstration (and disobedience) and find out strategies which will help the child arm itself before being released into the world as a responsible adult that does not require parental supervision.

I have to admit that the fifteen strategies presented in the book are interesting. They all strive to make the parent not say “no” or use any other negative, derrogatory or yelling arguments to have a point pass. Like the author says “don’t oppose forces- utilize them”. The strategies may seem conflicting, but Gall as an accomplished paediatrician undrestands that there is no unique strategy that would fit all children, or even one child all the time. So one of the first things that parents need to realise, is that you have to use the strategy that works at the given time and situation. And be prepared that it may not work some time afterwards. I think the message of the book is: Everytime you want to yell to make a point, can you do it without yelling? Here’s how.

a million ways
a million ways *

A book about (systems) management

I do not know how well am I going to use advice from the book as a parent, but this book is more than a parenting book. It is a management one. At least within the IT business where childish, erratic or other BOFH style behavior is common. This occured to me when reading that

“although every picture tells a story, the story it tells may not be the same for everyone. The meanining of communication is what the other person makes of it, and that’s not necessarily the same as what you intended. It’s up to you to notice that. That’s your feedback.”

Compare the above to the everything is a DNS problem mantra. But then again there is also other management insight that most overlook:

“But what does it mean when you say a person is “just lazy” or “just stubborn”? It really means that you have tried out some of your repertoire of behavioral interventions in order to elicit desired piece of behavior from the other person and you have failed, because yoour repertoire was too limited.”

Yes dear manager of weird IT people, sometimes you have to admit that your repertoire is limited. You too have to change your approach to get the job done.

I loved the book. How could I not love a management book presenting itself as a parenting one which in the last pages includes the definition of the law of requisite variety?

[*] – image and phrase came from my twitter timeline, not from the book

One thought on “Dancing with Elves

  1. i just returned home from a long lasting presentation on coaching and this post is really on time :)
    there are many ways to be a good or better “effective” parent.same for managers,teachers,coaches,psychologists,counsellors,everybody.

    but truth is the last three can be useful to the first three for the accomplishment of the “tough work” and the widening of limited repertoires.

    books help a lot too. (i loved the title of that one)

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