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Contract Miley-age

Hannah_montana"Assumptions not documented now become excuses later."  It was a favorite line of a former mentor of mine.  I've used it plenty of times during project communication presentations.  I even made reference to it in my first book.  And what I didn't realize is that my eight-year-old was paying more attention to me than I ever credited her for.

My wife and I have been "persuading" her all summer to clean her room so we could paint it.  We purchased a new quilt and agreed on a paint color.  The only critical path was the tidying up archaelogical dig it would take to plow through a world of eight-year-old treasures clutter.  Last night, I decided to provide a teachable moment to my daughter.  We drew up a contract.  We discussed what the final deliverable looked like (because for some kids, "clean room" is an ambiguous concept).  We covered timeframes.  We documented consequences for failing to deliver.  And to be fair, I asked her to document assumptions... what did she need from me to ensure successful delivery of the project?

Her requests?

  • Hourly check-ups to provide feedback
  • Move objects too heavy for her to carry
  • Keep her little sister out of her room during the project
  • Allow appropriately productivity-inducing music of her choice.

All seemed reasonable.  Everybody signed on the dotted line before bedtime.  We were ready to roll the next morning... until... where's my Miley Cyrus CD?  Miley who?  You know, Dad, Hannah Montana.  Oh, that Miley Cyrus.  Billy Ray's kid.  The one who actually can sing.  Then the news hit me:  her mother had taken away the CD and hid it as punishment for an earlier (and now expired) infraction.  Worse yet, her mother had forgotten where she hid it.

I tried negotiating.  "Can't you listen to the soundtrack to Wicked again?  You've only heard it 15,000 times.  What's one more?"  Nope.  "Isn't there at least one Princess song you haven't memorized?"  Princess songs are uncool past the age of seven.  She resolutely pointed out the terms of the contract as she sweetly and innocently asked me, "What's the balance on your iTunes account?"

I blanched.  The same iPod which housed the likes of Billy Joel, Alabama, Bon Jovi, Dave Koz, Johnny Cash, Marc Cohn, Blackhawk, Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Harry Connick Jr, Christine Kane, and Norah Jones was going to share giga-space with (gulp) Disney Bubble Gum Demon Spawn Miley Cyrus?  But a deal's a deal, and a contract's a contract.  After listening to the same six songs repeat in a three hour continuous loop (who says you can't tell time in Hell?), the room was cleaned.

I'll probably leave the songs on my iPod as a reminder.  And next time I negotiate a contract with my 8-year-old (or anyone else, for that matter), I'll do a quick refresher course of Rush Nigut's tips for contract negotiating... while I'm re-reading #3, I'll listen to the most recent iPod additions.  That should cement the lesson for a long, long time.  As Miley croons in her nasally adolescent voice, "Everybody makes mistakes."  Just don't tell my achy-breaky heart about it.


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Ms. Admin

Tim --- Admit it, most of all you're irked because, at 8, she's just like you. She out smarted you--she knew all the time Shannon had taken away the CD and this was her chance to redeem it (even though the punishment period had expired.) I just spent several days with MY Anna --- yep, I saw all the same wheels whirling and the gears turning. You're just in practice to be an easy touch when it's time to be a grandpa (and it's not too bad).

Michael Libbie

Tim, what a fun post! Thanks...neat lessons on the side.

Pete Jones

I have to agree with Ms. Admin. Your daughter seems to have your number, although I think you out smarted her with the contract. I can see it now, when your daughter is 16 Tim will be drawing up a contract for his daughter that details her curfew, driving limits, and the inevitable BOYS rule. Guess we'll have to see if the two sides are able to come to an agreement.

Timothy Johnson

OK, fair enough, my 8-year-old infected my iPod.

HOWEVER, you're doing what too many other managers do, and what I was hoping this post would prompt you to do. You're focusing on the issues that don't matter.

Bottom line: The room was cleaned and all it really cost me was $5.94 of Miley Cyrus on iTunes. I got my final deliverable.

A good negotiator will make a stink about what he's lost out on as a smoke screen. But in the end, if he gets the one deliverable he really wants, does the rest of it matter?

As for Pete's comment about dating contracts, he has NO IDEA.

Vicky H


This post is a classic. How much fun is the whole thing. I think the lessons learned by your little Miley Cyrus fan far outweigh any disadvantages!

For instance, her lessons learned included responsibility, negotiation, starting a task, making a commitment and completing said task, thinking thoroughly through a problem (dirty room) and figuring out the answer.

I think your raising a little entrepreneur! I am not going to hassle you to no end for a guest post on http://RemarkableParents.com since I've learned the art of negotiating a tough deal from said 8 year old.

Great Post!

Vicky H

Glenda Watson Hyatt

I love it, Mr T! No doubt that Ms J will be well equipped for the big world in a few years.

Timothy Johnson

Vicky - you know you can bug me about an occasional guest post. Yes, I have a feeling my daughter and I will both remember our lessons.

Glenda - if my daughter can grow up half as equipped for the big world as you are, I will consider my job as dad a success.

Drew McLellan


I think everyone is missing the point. We're talking your iPod, Man!

I so feel your pain. And if you ever want to listen to a little Brittney Spears or Back Street Boys -- I will lend you my iPod.


Timothy Johnson

Yes, Drew, my iPod is infected with teeny-bop crap. At least I didn't have to download the soundtrack to Camp Rock. LOL. There's always an upside.

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