Don’t talk about the project. Start the project.
Don’t announce it or even mention it. Just jump right in.
When you’re working with kids (or, for that matter, people who are like kids), there are some project management techniques that can be extremely helpful, time saving, and fun.
I made the first mistake about talking about “The Book Project” while walking home from school. I quickly changed the subject to something completely different when I got not-exactly-jumping-for-joy responses and remembered this rule: don’t talk about what you’re going to do, just get started and let them be a part of it. If you’re savvy, you’ll get them to even want to help. Sound impossible? I know.
I needed them to answer a few questions about their characters in the upcoming book. Fun stuff: character traits, magical powers, and “catch phrase.”
1.) Use jealousy
My older son is quickly envious of my younger son, so I figured if I could get the younger one involved, the older one would want to be a part of it. I asked my younger son the question, “If you could have any magical power, what would it be?” It’s a fun question, to be sure, and my younger son went straight into creative imagination mode: “I could create ‘Mini Me’ creatures whenever I wanted to. Each little version of me would have a gatling gun and … ” OK, he’s qualifies for being 100% boy as most creative explorations involve guns, explosions, farts or butts. Better yet if they include all them.
2.) Don’t edit
As expected, my older son jumped right in. “I know, I know,” he said, almost shaking as he couldn’t wait to get it out. “I’d have a magic straw that was white and red and when I waved it, I could have any In-N-Out order I wanted!” He waved his invisible wand, “A Double Double!” Waved again, “A vanilla shake!” I think he was hungry … I did pick them up a little late.
Later I learned that he meant that the straw/wand created an actual In-N-Out building! Glad I didn’t understand at the time as I liked the visual of the cheeseburger and shake appearing in the forest of Ireland quite magically culinary.
3.) Be enthusiastic about their answers
I didn’t have to fake it: I laughed hard and out loud at the In-N-Out magical power. You always think they’ll go for flying or invisible cloaks or potions. But the whole vision of In-N-Out was priceless. Enthusiasm? Check!
Comment on their answers that show you’re listening. “I bet your buddies Dec & Den are going to LOVE your In-N-Out wand!” I said without hesitation or exaggeration. Dec & Den are their friends who are going to be sharing the pages of adventure in their upcoming book based on a weekend of adventures in a castle in Ireland. “So,” I asked in all seriousness … wow, maybe I was hungry too … “Can your wand make In-N-Out appear for everyone or just you?”
“For anyone,” he said. Oh goodie.
5.) Keep the momentum
If there are less fun questions, sneak those in while the iron is hot. I wanted to gather some “character traits” (e.g. shy, silly, honest, etc.), but wasn’t sure how to ask. So I just asked. I got the answers (older boy said, “Honest, good at American football.”) and moved on.
- Possible: ask straightforward questions
- Impossible: expect straightforward answers
- Repossible: make it a game and play along
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