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(#M40138577) CTS Category question verbal Keep an EYE

(a) these decision provides (b) firm ground for all players in (c) the equality rights arena, sponsored links, how to solve a paper (apply for all exams).

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Placement Questions & Answers :: Cognizant

31.  We can infer, from the use of the phrase "... rapid democratization of the world", in the first para, that:

a these decisions provides firm

Answer: people are accorded more freedom in terms of choice

Here is no explanation for this answer


32.  As understood from the passage, what does the phrase notion central to religion not surviving, say, the internet is laughable" in the 2"" para mean?

Answer: Central ideas of religion not able to outlast internet is ridiculous.

33.  (A) these decision provides (B) firm ground for all players in (C) the equality rights arena (D) No error.

34.  She "has lived" in Chennai since she was eight

Answer: has been living

35.  Get out of the building! "It sound like the generator is going to explode".

Answer: lt sounds like generator exploded

36.  The election verdict was quite surprising as the ruling party was re-elected for the first time in fifty years.

Answer: Judgement

37.  For as long as she could remember, Divya has loved "to cook, to dance, and, until her poor vision made it impossible for her to do so", reading books.

Answer: Cooking, dancing, and. until her poor vision made it impossible for her to do so

38.  The man's shadow_______ always beside him..no matter what.

Answer: stays

39.  There was _____ in the country when their cricket team won the world cup

Answer: Jubliation

40.  I always wanted a basket ball and ______ I-pad in my collection

  • The Economy 2.0
  • Microeconomics

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Unit 6 The firm and its employees

  • 6.2 The structure of the firm: Owners, managers, and workers

Within firms, work is coordinated by owners and managers, who determine the tasks to be performed, employ workers to carry them out, and direct their activities. The managers of Walmart, the world’s largest retailer, direct the activities of 2.1 million employees, more people than in any army in world history before the nineteenth century. Walmart is exceptionally large, but—like many firms—it brings together a large group of people and coordinates their work to make profits.

Firms do not form spontaneously like flash mobs and then disappear. They are organizations with a decision-making process and ways of imposing decisions on the people in them.

Figure 6.1 shows a simplified picture of the firm’s actors and decision-making structure.

Figure 6.1 The firm’s actors and its decision-making and information structures.

Owners decide long-term strategies

The owners, through their board of directors, decide the firm’s long-term strategies: how, what, and where to produce. They direct the manager(s) to implement these decisions.

Managers assign workers

Each manager assigns workers to the tasks required for these decisions to be implemented, and attempts to ensure that the assignments are carried out.

Flows of information

The upward green arrows represent flows of information. They are dashed lines because workers often know things that managers do not, and managers know things that owners do not.

The dashed green arrows represent a problem of asymmetric information between levels in the hierarchy (owners and managers, managers and workers). Since owners or managers do not always know what their subordinates know or do, not all of their directions or commands (grey downward arrows) are necessarily carried out.

Comparing interactions in firms and markets

Interactions within firms are different from interactions in markets:

  • In markets with many firms competing for customers, power is decentralized. Purchases and sales result from buyers’ and sellers’ independent decisions. An ‘order’ in a market is a request for a purchase that can be rejected if the seller pleases.
  • In firms, power is concentrated in the hands of the owners and managers, who issue directives and expect employees to carry them out. An ‘order’ in the firm is a command.

For example, a bakery cannot text its customers to tell them to ‘Show up at 8 a.m. and purchase two cakes for €1 each’. It could tempt them with a special offer, but it cannot require them to show up. When you buy or sell something, it is generally voluntary. You respond to prices, not commands.

But the bakery can tell its employees to show up and follow the orders of the manager. Firms have decision-making structures in which some people have power over others. Ronald Coase, the economist who founded the study of the firm as a stage, wrote:

If a workman moves from department Y to department X, he does not go because of a change in relative prices but because he is ordered to do so … the distinguishing mark of the firm is the suppression of the price mechanism. (‘The Nature of the Firm’, 1937) 1

Coase likened the firm in a capitalist economy to a miniature, privately owned, centrally planned economy. Its top-down decision-making structure resembles the centralized direction of production in entire economies that took place in many Communist countries (and in the US and the UK during the Second World War). 2

When economists agree Coase and Marx on the firm and its employees

The writer, George Bernard Shaw (1856–1950), joked that ‘if all economists were laid end to end, they would not reach a conclusion.’

This is funny, but not entirely true.

Strikingly, two economists from different centuries and political orientations came up with similar ways of understanding the firm and its employees.

In the nineteenth century, Marx contrasted the way buyers and sellers interact in a market, voluntarily engaging in trade, with the firm’s organization as a top-down structure in which employers issue orders and workers follow them. He called markets ‘a very Eden of the innate rights of man’, but described the owners of firms as ‘exploit[ing] labour … to the greatest possible extent’.

When Ronald Coase died in 2013, he was described by Forbes magazine as ‘the greatest of the many great University of Chicago economists’ . The motto of Forbes is ‘The capitalist tool’, and the University of Chicago has a reputation as the centre of conservative economic thinking.

Yet, like Marx, Coase stressed the central role of authority in the firm’s contractual relations:

Note the character of the contract into which an [employee] enters that is employed within a firm … for certain remuneration [the employee] agrees to obey the directions of the entrepreneur. (‘The Nature of the Firm’, 1937)

Coase sought to understand why firms exist at all, quoting his contemporary D. H. Robertson’s description of them as ‘islands of conscious power in this ocean of unconscious cooperation’.

Both based their thinking on careful empirical observation, and they arrived at a similar understanding of the hierarchy of the firm. But they disagreed on the consequences of what they observed: Coase thought that the hierarchy of the firm was a cost-reducing way to do business. Marx thought that the coercive authority of the boss over the worker limited the employee’s freedom. Despite their disagreements, Coase and Marx advanced economics with a common idea.

Question 6.2 Choose the correct answer(s)

Read the following statements and select the correct option(s).

  • Karl Marx and Ronald Coase came up with similar ways of understanding the firm and its employees.
  • The defining characteristic of markets, according to Marx, is that one party demonstrates authority over the other party.
  • Karl Marx emphasized the benefits of the authority structure that operates within firms.
  • Ronald Coase emphasized the benefits of the authority structure that operates within firms.
  • Both Karl Marx and Ronald Coase came up with a similar understanding of the hierarchy of the firm, based on careful empirical observation.
  • Marx discussed how market participants interact voluntarily. In contrast to this, he discussed authority in regards to relationships within firms.
  • Marx argued that the coercive authority of the boss over the worker limited the employee’s freedom.
  • In particular, he discussed how the hierarchical structure of the firm could reduce costs.

Contracts and relationships

How large are employment rents?

A contract for the sale of a car transfers ownership, meaning that the new owner can now use the car and exclude others from its use and sell it to someone else. Under an employment contract , by contrast, an employee gives the employer the right to direct them to be at work at specified times, and authority over the use of their time while at work. The contract does not give the employer ownership of the employee—that would be slavery. To summarize:

  • Contracts for products sold in markets permanently transfer ownership of the good from the seller to the buyer.
  • Contracts for labour temporarily transfer authority over a person’s activities from the employee to the manager or owner.

In an employment contract, the worker is paid according to the time for which they work, not the specific tasks they undertake while working.

Employment differs from other market interactions in two other ways. In markets for goods, we shop around; our interactions with individual sellers or buyers are short-lived and often not repeated. An employment contract typically establishes a long-term relationship that may last years, decades, or even a lifetime. Figure 6.2 shows that in 2021, 42% of employees across 36 countries had been with their current employer for 10 years or more.

Figure 6.2 Distribution of job tenure, 2021.

Calculations based on OECD. Employment by job tenure intervals – persons . Accessed January 2023.

The second difference is that employment contracts are incomplete : they do not cover everything that the parties care about, such as how hard and well the employee will work, or whether the employee will quit or the employer terminate their job.

In subsequent sections, we will explore the reasons for these differences.

Exercise 6.1 The structure of an organization

In Figure 6.1 we showed the actors and decision-making structure of a typical firm.

  • How might the actors and decision-making structure of three organizations, Google , Wikipedia , and a family farm compare with this?
  • Draw an organizational structure chart in the style of Figure 6.1 to represent each of these entities.

Question 6.3 Choose the correct answer(s)

  • A labour contract transfers ownership of the employee from the employee to the employer.
  • Compared to sale contracts, employment contracts are typically long-term.
  • In a labour contract, one side of the contract has the power to issue orders to the other side, but this power is absent from a sale contract.
  • A firm is a structure that involves decentralization of power to the employees.
  • That would be slavery. A labour contract grants the firm the authority to direct the activities of the employee during specific times.
  • As shown in Figure 6.2, across many countries, most employment contracts last a year or more, with around 36% employees staying with their employer for ten or more years.
  • A labour contract gives the employer the authority to direct the activities of the employee, whereas a sale contract transfers property rights and does not bind the parties to further actions.
  • Firms represent a concentration of economic power in the hands of the owners and managers.

Ronald H. Coase. 1937. ‘The Nature of the Firm’ . Economica 4 (16): pp. 386–405.  ↩

Ronald H. Coase. 1992. ‘The Institutional Structure of Production’ . American Economic Review 82 (4): pp. 713–19.   ↩

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  • Home — The Economy 2.0
  • Table of contents
  • A note to instructors
  • Producing The Economy 2.0
  • Great Economists
  • How economists learn from facts
  • When economists disagree
  • Building blocks
  • 1.1 Ibn Battuta’s fourteenth-century travels in a flat world
  • 1.2 History’s hockey stick
  • 1.3 Another hockey stick: Climate change
  • 1.4 Inequality in global income
  • 1.5 The continuous technological revolution
  • 1.6 Explaining the flat part of the hockey stick: Production functions and the diminishing average product of labour
  • 1.7 Explaining the flat part of the hockey stick: The Malthusian trap, population, and the average product of labour
  • 1.8 Capitalist institutions
  • 1.9 Structural transformation: From farm to firm
  • 1.10 Capitalism, causation, and history’s hockey stick
  • 1.11 Application: Did the British colonization of India reduce Indian living standards?
  • 1.12 Varieties of capitalism: Institutions, government, and politics
  • 1.13 Economics, the economy, and the biosphere
  • 1.14 Summary
  • 1.15 References
  • 2.1 Kutesmart automates personalized tailoring
  • 2.2 Economic decisions: Opportunity costs, economic rents, and incentives
  • 2.3 Comparative advantage, specialization, and markets
  • 2.4 Firms, technology, and production
  • 2.5 Modelling a dynamic economy: Technology and costs
  • 2.6 Modelling a dynamic economy: Innovation and profit
  • 2.7 Cheap coal, expensive labour: The Industrial Revolution in Britain and incentives for new technologies
  • 2.8 Economic models: How to see more by looking at less
  • 2.9 Markets, cheap calories, and cotton: The colonies, slavery, and the Industrial Revolution in Britain
  • 2.10 Growth: Escaping the Malthusian trap
  • 2.11 Capitalism + carbon = hockey stick growth + climate change
  • 2.12 How good is the model? Economists, historians, and the Industrial Revolution
  • 2.13 Summary
  • 2.14 References
  • 3.1 Would you work fewer hours if your hourly wage doubled?
  • 3.2 A problem of choice and scarcity
  • 3.3 Goods and preferences
  • 3.4 The feasible set
  • 3.5 Decision-making and scarcity
  • 3.6 Hours of work and technological progress
  • 3.7 Income and substitution effects on hours of work and free time
  • 3.8 Is this a good model?
  • 3.9 Explaining our working hours: Changes over time
  • 3.10 Application: Work hours, free time, and inequality
  • 3.11 Explaining our working hours: Gender and working time
  • 3.12 Explaining our working hours: Differences between countries
  • 3.13 Summary
  • 3.14 References
  • 4.1 Climate negotiations: Conflicts and common interests
  • 4.2 Social interactions: Game theory
  • 4.3 Best responses in the rice–cassava game: Nash equilibrium
  • 4.4 Dominant strategy equilibrium and the prisoners’ dilemma
  • 4.5 Evaluating outcomes: The Pareto criterion
  • 4.6 Public good games and cooperation
  • 4.7 Social preferences: Altruism
  • 4.8 Repeated interaction: Social norms, reciprocity, and peer punishment in public good games
  • 4.9 Using experiments to study economic behaviour
  • 4.10 Cooperation, negotiation, and conflicts of interest
  • 4.11 The ultimatum game: Dividing a pie (or leaving it on the table)
  • 4.12 Fair farmers, self-interested students? Experimental results of the ultimatum game
  • 4.13 Coordination games and conflicts of interest
  • 4.14 Modelling the global climate change problem
  • 4.15 Summary
  • 4.16 References
  • 5.1 Pirate economics
  • 5.2 Institutions and power
  • 5.3 Evaluating institutions and outcomes: Fairness
  • 5.4 Setting up a model: Technology and preferences
  • 5.5 Institutions, and the case of the independent farmer
  • 5.6 Case 1: Forced labour
  • 5.7 Case 2: A take-it-or-leave-it contract
  • 5.8 Case 3: Bargaining in a democracy
  • 5.9 Case 3 continued: Negotiating to a Pareto-efficient sharing of the surplus
  • 5.10 Lessons on the impact of institutions on efficiency and fairness
  • 5.11 The distribution of income: Endowments, technology, and institutions
  • 5.12 Measuring economic inequality
  • 5.13 Application: A policy to redistribute the surplus and raise efficiency
  • 5.14 Application: Conflicts of interest and bargaining over wages, pollution, and jobs
  • 5.15 Summary
  • 5.16 References
  • 6.1 Exploding tyres: The mystery unravelled
  • 6.3 Other people’s money: The separation of ownership and control
  • 6.4 Finding jobs and filling vacancies
  • 6.5 Managing hiring and quitting: The reservation wage curve
  • 6.6 Getting the work done: Contracts, principals, and agents
  • 6.7 Employment rents: The cost of job loss
  • 6.8 Counting the cost of job loss: Rents and reservation wages
  • 6.9 Getting employees to work hard: The labour discipline model
  • 6.10 Combining recruitment and labour discipline: The wage-setting model
  • 6.11 Putting the wage setting model to work: Wages, employment, and the rate of unemployment
  • 6.12 How employers exercise power
  • 6.13 Application: The minimum wage
  • 6.14 Application: Another kind of business organization
  • 6.15 Summary
  • 6.16 References
  • 7.1 Winning brands
  • 7.2 Breakfast cereal: Choosing a price
  • 7.3 Economies of scale and the cost advantages of large-scale production
  • 7.4 Production and costs: The cost function for Beautiful Cars
  • 7.5 Demand, elasticity, and revenue
  • 7.6 Setting price and quantity to maximize profit
  • 7.7 Gains from trade: The surplus and how it is divided
  • 7.8 Price-setting, competition, and the market
  • 7.9 How firms differentiate their products
  • 7.10 Markets with few firms: Strategic price-setting
  • 7.11 Firms and markets with decreasing long-run average costs
  • 7.12 Influencing market power, and competition policy
  • 7.13 Summary
  • 7.14 References
  • 8.1 Supply and demand: Markets with many buyers and sellers
  • 8.2 Buying and selling: Demand, supply, and the market-clearing price
  • 8.3 Competitive equilibrium and price-taking
  • 8.4 Firms in competitive equilibrium
  • 8.5 Gains from trade in competitive equilibrium: Allocation and distribution
  • 8.6 Changes in supply and demand
  • 8.7 Short-run and long-run equilibria
  • 8.8 Application: Market dynamics in the oil market
  • 8.9 How competition works: Transforming a cartel coordination game into a competitive prisoners’ dilemma
  • 8.10 Supply, demand, and competitive equilibrium: Is this a good model?
  • 8.11 Application: Why information about prices matters
  • 8.12 The effect of a tax
  • 8.13 Price controls
  • 8.14 Summary
  • 8.15 References
  • 9.1 The importance of Chambar moneylenders
  • 9.2 Income and wealth
  • 9.3 Borrowing: Bringing consumption forward in time to the present
  • 9.4 Reasons to borrow: The value of spending now
  • 9.5 Application: Discounting, external effects, and the future of the planet
  • 9.6 Lending and storing: Moving consumption to the future
  • 9.7 Investing: Another way to move consumption to the future
  • 9.8 Conflicts over the gains made possible by borrowing and lending
  • 9.9 Borrowers and lenders: A principal–agent problem
  • 9.10 Inequality: Lenders, borrowers, and those excluded from credit markets
  • 9.11 How good is the model?
  • 9.12 A poverty trap for those with limited wealth
  • 9.13 Application: Policies to reduce risk exposure of less well off people
  • 9.14 Summary
  • 9.15 References
  • 10.1 Bananas, fish, and cancer
  • 10.2 The external effects of pollution: Private and social costs and benefits
  • 10.3 Solving the problem: Private bargaining and property rights
  • 10.4 Solving the problem: Regulation, taxation, and compensation
  • 10.5 External effects: More examples and diagnoses
  • 10.6 Public goods, non-rivalry, and excludability: A model of radio broadcasting
  • 10.7 Public goods and bads, open access, and shared resources
  • 10.8 Asymmetric information: Principal–agent relationships, hidden actions, and incomplete contracts
  • 10.9 Hidden actions and risk: Market failure in insurance and credit markets
  • 10.10 Asymmetric information: Hidden attributes and adverse selection
  • 10.11 The limits of markets
  • 10.12 Summary
  • 10.13 References
  • Looking forward to economics after The Economy 2.0
  • Bibliography
  • Copyright acknowledgements


This ebook is developed by CORE Econ. More information and additional resources for learning and teaching can be found at www.core-econ.org .

Licensed under Creative Commons BY NC ND

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The Family Firm: A Data-Driven Guide to Better Decision Making in the Early School Years (The ParentData Series)

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The Family Firm: A Data-Driven Guide to Better Decision Making in the Early School Years (The ParentData Series) Hardcover – August 3, 2021

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  • Book 3 of 3 The ParentData
  • Print length 320 pages
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  • Publisher Penguin Press
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Creating the "Big Picture"

In his book on families, Stephen Covey, of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People fame, argues that your family needs a "mission statement." This is a grounding document to highlight your central family values. It's not dissimilar to the mission statement a firm might have. Your central family values may be religious or articulate a family-first focus. They might say something like "Prioritize family time and raise thoughtful kids." Maybe your mission articulates a particular approach to child independence (i.e., are you a free-range parent, or more of a helicopter type?).

You should have such a mission statement! But I'm going to suggest going beyond that and directly addressing the interaction between these broad priorities and concrete decisions. When I talk about creating the family Big Picture, I'm talking about these overall principles, but I'm also talking about confronting "What does Thursday night look like?"

There's a parallel to firms. The statement "Create a great search engine and don't be evil" is perhaps a good mission statement for Google, but it's not a recipe for how to run the firm. Just as "Prioritize family time and raise thoughtful kids" may be a good broad mission, but it doesn't tell you the right bedtime.

These logistical details matter, because if you fail to think about the logistics holistically, you could find yourself almost accidentally in a very different place than you imagined. Each individual choice may seem inconsequential in the moment, but they add up.

Think, for example, about birthdays. Imagine you have three kids, all in school, in classes of twenty kids each. And imagine that each kid in each class has a birthday party. That is sixty birthday parties a year. When each Evite rolls in, you think, "Oh, okay, it's just one birthday party." But by the end of the year, you've spent literally every weekend at Sky Zone, Jump For Fun, Kidz Kastle, or, my personal favorite, Dave & Buster's.

At some point you may think, "Enough is enough," and put the kibosh on attending any more parties that year. But then it's your middle daughter's best friend's birthday and she absolutely has to go. So that's another weekend down.

In economics parlance, your sequential birthday approach means you're making each invite decision "on the margin." But while adding each marginal birthday has a small effect, the aggregate may be, quite simply, not acceptable.

In the grand scheme of things, birthday parties are a minor issue. But this kind of slippery-slope experience can pervade our parenting decisions. You let in one late-night extracurricular, then another, and pretty soon your image of dinner as a family at six every night has vanished. And if this dinner is a priority for you, that's a problem.

It shouldn't escape our notice that failing to articulate these priorities is a recipe for conflict in cases where there are multiple decision makers (say, two parents) in the household. Let's say bedtime by 8:30 is a key priority for me, and I've worked out the family schedule so it happens every night that I'm around. Now imagine that I'm out of town for work and I call my partner at 10 p.m. to learn that the older child is still up, watching The Great British Baking Show.

"WHAT IS THE MATTER WITH YOU?!" I yell through the phone.

"This is your rule, not mine," comes the retort. "You want it done your way? Don't leave town."

What is the problem here? Perhaps many things, but at least one is failing to get on the same page about bedtime as a priority. If you have two (or more!) parents involved in raising a child, they'll inevitably parent at least slightly differently. My husband, for example, adheres much less stringently to the every-other-day bath system than I do. When he's in charge, baths tend to be a little less frequent. And this is okay, because although I have a particular bath system, it's not actually that important to me. In contrast, maintaining a fixed bedtime is extremely important to me. But unless we had talked it through, how would Jesse know that my feelings on bath frequency and bedtime are fundamentally different?

It is also useful to recognize that every small thing cannot be a hill to die on. If you start this process and it turns out one of you has rigid preferences about everything, that doesn't leave much space for joint problem-solving. Articulating priorities together may help you recognize which are really important to you and realize that they cannot all be equally crucial.

The first step in creating your Family Firm is to outline your mission, and then think carefully about what your family will prioritize, what your day looks like, and the basic logistics of your family. To be clear, you could think about this at any time in life-before kids, with an infant, with a toddler-but around school-entry time is a good point to revisit your mission statement carefully. For one thing, once your kid is in school, you'll adopt a schedule that you will keep-more or less-for the next thirteen years (or longer, if you have other kids). For another, this is often around the time things calm down at least a bit and you get more mental space to think about your choices.

The Process

Creating the family Big Picture is not the activity of a single afternoon, and you'll probably need to revisit pieces of it more than once as your children age. And you may choose to do this a bit differently. That's okay! Think of this as a guide or a starting point.

To help you out, I've made a workbook. In the pages that follow, I'll talk about structuring some of these conversations, about writing things down. You don't need a workbook to do this, but I think it will help.

(Also, I love workbooks. True story: My mother still remembers that at my third-grade parent-teacher conference, Mrs. Totman said, not entirely positively, "I just cannot understand why she likes workbooks so much.")

There are two basic steps. First, at the broadest level, expressing and aligning values and priorities. Second, getting to the more granular: creating the day-to-day schedule, establishing some family principles, and assigning responsibilities.

But before you get into actually doing any of this, please read the next section of the book, which has some big data pieces you might want to consider. As you think about the family schedule, knowing more about sleep-Is it important? How much do kids need?-is important. As you think about your level of parental involvement with your kid, you may want to consider what the evidence says on the relationship between parental involvement and children's independence or performance in school. The data chapters won't tell you how to make these choices for your family, but they may provide some important input.

Step 1: Values and Priorities

In a business-school class in negotiations, a common topic is the "Theory of Anchoring." Basically, the opening bid in a negotiation "anchors" the price. By the same token, collective decisions can be thrown off by having one person publicly state their views first. If we are trying to decide, as a firm, how much to bid for a company, and the first person to speak suggests $20 million, I may be embarrassed to say I thought it was worth only $2 million. But knowing that we disagree is valuable! One approach to learning that is to ask people to write down their valuations privately and then share them simultaneously.

We'll take a similar approach here. Start with all the parenting stakeholders, whoever that is in your family. This exercise is likely to be useful even if you are parenting alone, just not for quite the same reasons. Everyone gets a piece of paper (or a copy of the first workbook page) and writes down:

Your overarching family mission statement. Whatever you want! One sentence: What is your main goal for the family?

Three main goals for your children (big life goals; not something like, "Use a fork better," even if you desperately, desperately want that).

Three priorities for you, things you care about (could be working, exercising, seeing friends); what do you want to make sure you get time for?

Three activities you see as must do on (most) weekdays. (For example, mine would be: (1) eat at least one meal with the kids; (2) get some work done; (3) be there for bedtime. If I get all three things in a day, I'm likely to be happy.)

Three activities you see as must do on (most) weekends (for example, religious services, extra tutoring, competitive sports, hiking, seeing grandparents).

And then you switch papers and discuss.

What comes out of this? Well, it depends. Maybe you're completely aligned and what comes out are some touchpoints you both agree on for developing your family schedule and principles. Or maybe you're not aligned. Maybe my ideal weekend is competitive sports and math tutoring, and yours is hiking the Appalachian Trail and camping. Would be good to know now.

This may also reveal things we care about and agree on but that differ from what we are doing now. For example, this may reveal that I would like to be a stay-at-home parent. And my partner might think that's a great idea and even have some thoughts on how to make it work financially. If we haven't discussed it before, I may not know that my partner would support that. Or the inverse: Maybe I've been staying at home, but I'm dying to go back to work and was afraid to bring it up. For these reasons, it is important to be honest in these discussions, even if you think what you want isn't achievable.

(A note: If you are parenting alone, I still think this is a valuable approach, since in the chaos of parenting, you may not stop often enough to reflect on what you really want to be doing in each moment.)

There is no obvious end to this conversation. It's one you've probably started before you got to this point, and one you'll continue. But have the conversion until you feel like you're in enough alignment to put your mission statement into concrete practice.

Writing down your goals for your family will not give you control. Control in family life is illusory-things happen that you do not expect, the world throws you curveballs. No amount of note-taking and planning can avoid this. But not everything is unexpected, and we can avoid much daily stress by at least being clear about our real hopes for our family.

Step 2: The Details

The approach in this book-perhaps fitting for an economist-focuses on the practical. So while I'd urge you to start with the values and principles, the next steps dial into the details. Starting with the schedule. Literally, this step involves looking at calendars (in the workbook!) for the weekdays and weekends, and filling them in.

Give everyone a calendar. All the adult decision makers. If they are old enough, some of the children as well. Have everyone outline their suggested schedule for the week; adults, you need to do the kids' schedules, too. Note that this shouldn't be your "dream schedule" (for my kids: breakfast, TV, lunch, app time, snack, movie, dinner, bed). It should be a realistic expression of what you think the day should look like. It needn't be hyperdetailed, but it should go beyond "eat, work, eat, sleep." Try to think through some details-for example, if you agreed in step 1 to eat dinner together most nights, you need to figure out how said dinner will be produced (and by whom).

I've given an example on the next page-this is a Tuesday, and I've put in a proposal for me and each of the kids. I left Jesse on his own, but I'll note that having been married so long and having the same job, we basically have the same schedule. Although he wakes up an hour later and runs less frequently.

Once you've got these schedules written down, compare them. You're not likely to agree on everything. Maybe your ten-year-old thinks that homework should be an after-dinner activity, whereas you are adamant that it should happen right after school. Maybe your partner thinks four nights a week of take-out is a good idea, whereas you are more of a once-a-week kind of person.

But you'll come together. It's easier to coordinate schedules than values, in most cases, and you've done the work to get to the shared values.

Once you do agree on everyone's schedules, get them in writing. At a minimum, print out the family schedules and keep them somewhere (do not necessarily trust your children to keep them-one of mine just came in while I was writing this to tell me she "lost" her schedule several weeks ago). You may also consider entering these into a Google Calendar, if you choose to go all in on that (more on computing tools in the last chapter of this section).

These schedules will not keep forever. New school years or terms will bring new activities. You may need a big revisit at least once a year, and perhaps smaller revisits more often than that. But these later revisions should be easier. Like many aspects of this approach, there is a big up-front investment and a payoff later.

The second practical component of the Big Picture is a set of principles. That is, a set of family rules that are more specific than "here is our mission" but general enough to speak to decisions that come up frequently. Some of your family principles may be closely related to schedule-for example, one family principle may be "Bedtime is at 8 p.m."-but they will go beyond this.

The goal of principles, really, is to translate the set of shared values into a set of shared "rules" that anyone can implement. Consider this example: Can twelve-year-old Alexandra have a sleepover tonight? It's a Wednesday. She wants to go to her friend's house after dinner to work on their social studies project and then sleep over. Mommy arrives home from work; Alexandra asks her. Mommy knows the friend, knows that her parents will enforce a reasonable bedtime, but still, it's a weeknight sleepover.

Mommy says she has to talk about it with Mama. Mama arrives home at 6:10, dinnertime is 6:20. She is immediately accosted by the question, Alexandra standing impatiently while her parents attempt to discuss. Mama really has to pee. Regardless of the outcome, everyone ends up frustrated and annoyed.

Or Mommy just says yes. Then Mama comes home and cannot believe she wasn't consulted about this, since she is categorically opposed to school-night sleepovers. Whether Alexandra goes or not, the day ends with everyone mad.

Product details

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Penguin Press (August 3, 2021)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 320 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1984881752
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1984881755
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 1.12 pounds
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 6.37 x 1.1 x 9.29 inches
  • #105 in Business Decision Making
  • #107 in Parenting Boys
  • #128 in Parenting Girls

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About the author

Emily oster.

I'm an economics professor at Brown University, a writer of books on pregnancy and parenting and the author of the Substack newsletter "ParentData". My goal: creating a world of more relaxed pregnant women and parents.

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