Don’t Fall Prey to List Bossiness! Harness the Power of Lists

You know what bosses people around? Lists. This is why for instance a parent or teacher absolutely insists that a child finishes a worksheet. It’s essentially a list of problems to be completed. And they HAVE to be finished. Look! It’s there and IT’S BLANK. It NEEDS to be finished!

This is also why some parents go nuts when a child doesn’t clear their plate at dinner time. It’s why I was a slave to house projects for the house we bought in 2007. We had a list of improvement projects. I wanted to finish it so bad. I wanted to brag, “I wrote down 50 ideas, and I did them all!” We never finished them: we lived at that house for 9 years.

Lists are powerful. When you yourself actively write something down, it becomes almost a subconscious imperative to finish it. It’s a powerful thing–but beware it’s power!

The example of worksheets is one I want to linger on. How much pressure is routinely put on children to finish something just for the sake of finishing it? I believe this may be what is meant by “Workbook Syndrome.” I fell prey to this many times. When we for instance started in on beginner books, I wanted to finish all of them, even though my son lost all interest when we got to about 48 out of 50. When we got a book about first grade grammar, I wanted to finish all of it, and anticipate that maybe my son would blow through the second grade one quickly. It caused unnecessary anxiety. The real question: Have my children learned what they can learn from the worksheet? Is it serving as a useful aid? Or is it just bossing us around?

Writing stuff down is powerful, especially in your own handwriting. Go ahead and try it. Put your most burning passionate goal down, written, in your own handwriting. See how it focuses you.

Instead of focusing on worksheets and what my *children* should accomplish, as their teacher, I focus on my own list of activities that *I* want to do with them. I have a Word document that tracks them called “Daily Children’s Activities.” It’s amazingly powerful for me simply to open this document. Whereas before I might have been thinking, “Hmmm, what should I do with them? Well there’s the sewing thing … would they really be interested? I don’t know. Or the math thing–but we already did that. Or the science experiment, but, gosh, it’s a lot of work.” But when I simply open up my document to keep track of what I do with them, I go, “ALL THE STUFF. WE MUST DO ALL THE STUFF. ALL OBSTACLES OUT OF MY WAY! WE WILL DO ALL THIS STUFF BY TUESDAY IF WE CAN!” Yup that’s about how it goes. From my list:


Where, if anywhere, do you fall prey to list bossiness? Where can you harness it’s power?

See me at The Observant mom on Facebook.

See my book, Misbehavior is Growth: An Observant Parent’s Guide to the Toddler Years.


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