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Slowing the Family FAST TRACK

In my work with students and parents over the past 10 years, I have witnessed an ever-accelerating "hurry up and get there" world.

Students seem to run from one subject to the next, from school to homework to extracurricular activities, with different obligations filling all available time. Their parents have the same hectic schedule, trying to balance careers and kids with everything from church work to community service.

Years of training have taken us to the paranoia of "Am I doing enough?" We have become the perfect products of a system that fosters an assembly-line mentality, measured by productivity in relationship to time:

Maintains attention to task.

Follows directions.

Listens attentively.

Completes work on time.

Uses time wisely.

Under this system, both students and adult workers have been judged by the ability to do tasks as given, without deviation and within set time limits. As these behaviors have become the norm, the drive to do and get it done have taken hold in many who are praised as "driven to succeed."

Yet perhaps we should ask ourselves a few basic questions: "Is this the way I want to live my life _ always under stress and in a hurry?" And, perhaps more important, "Does this lifestyle give my children the role model they need to ensure success in their future?"

Getting off this merry-go-round requires new resolutions: We must acknowledge that the workplace and its needs are changing. In the future, our assembly-line way of work and life will change to involve more thinking, learning, creativity and collaboration. In the future, our children will find new meaning in the old terms:

Maintains attention to task: "I will think many thoughts at once and let my mind wander to find new ones."

Follows directions: "I will constantly think of better ways to do a task, then try new ideas to create my own directions."

Listens attentively: "I will find connections between new ideas and use them as a springboard for my own imagination."

Completes work on time: "I've developed a new system to allow us to complete in three months what previously would have taken a year to do."

Uses time wisely: "I've set aside a little time to pamper myself."

In order to slow down this hurry-up world _ and to remain focused on the future _ a new list of resolutions might read:

1. Make sure my child has some thinking time each day _ time with no demands.

2. During the work day, I'll set a timer for 60 seconds and give myself time to think or invent.

3. I will find one less thing to do as a role model for my child. When parents provide too much, sometimes that's just too confusing for a young person.

4. As I set new priorities, I'll begin to let go of time limits. Instead, I'll use the time to teach my child that I control tasks rather than having tasks control me.

5. Finally, I will begin to carry out tasks according to quality instead of simply following deadlines that couldn't have a better name.

With this new role model for our children's education, "hurry up and do your homework" will become a phrase of the past. Instead, our children will learn to come to us and say, "While learning my homework, I had a new idea. Do you have time to listen?"

Dr. Yvonne Fournier, president of Fournier Learning Strategies Inc., of Memphis, Tenn., is an education consultant to schools and corporations.