Broken Windows – A Family Metaphor

by Lorraine Esposito on October 5, 2012

in You as a parent

Article first published as Broken Windows – A Family Metaphor on Technorati.

Broken Windows Theory was first put forth by James Q. Wilson to help reduce crime in major cities.  In short, this theory suggests that serious crime decreases faster when greater attention is focused on quality of life issues rather than on crime itself.  It seems to work.  New York City saw a decrease in serious crime by adopting the broken windows approach in the 1980s and 90s.  Now the Detroit Police are giving it a try.  From crime to cancer treatment, and even deciding where to locate your business, quality of life details prove significant.

 “Because the quality of life category carries such heavy weight in our study . . . states that do well here have a big jump on the competition.”  CNBC’s Top States for Business Study

Metaphor for Families

Arguments, deceit, and other family problems represent the serious “crimes” we want to avoid in our families.  Quality of life issues are the small glitches in the fabric of the home environment.  Things like torn furniture, stained carpets, squeaky doors, and burned-out light bulbs that decrease the quality of life for everyone.

Sweat the Small Stuff

Kristine Carlson’s book, “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff for Moms,” suggests doing way with worry over the details that ultimately don’t matter.  While I agree that parents must prioritize the ways in which they spend energy, I disagree that details don’t matter—a spotless home may not be necessary, but a cluttered home matters a great deal.

Devil in the Details

Details are often misjudged as insignificant until there’s a problem.  Time and again we see catastrophe traced back to an overlooked detail.   Consider the Space Shuttle Challenger:

The consensus of the Commission and participating investigative agencies is that the loss of the Space Shuttle Challenger was caused by a failure in the joint between the two lower segments of the right Solid Rocket Motor. –Report of the Presidential Commission on the Space Shuttle Challenger Accident

Physical Disorder and Social Disorder

The quality of the family environment is a reflection of the quality of the relationships within the family.  By addressing disorder in the environment, quality of life improves because a new message of respect is reflected back to the family members.

Our goal is to prevent “broken windows” and it takes a proactive approach to details.  When small details consistently matter, the big picture gets handled automatically.

Create Quality

Straighten crooked pictures on the wall, clean the bathroom mirror, wash decorative pillows cases, relocate the outside garbage cans if you’re having to walk around them every day, push the dining room chairs in, wipe down your front door, etc.  These are a few quality of life details masquerading as insignificant.  Just think of it:  you now have an endless number of opportunities to take action in support of the quality of your family’s life.  You’ll be successful, one detail at a time.

Related Articles:   Holiday Opportunity, Caution: Tripping Hazard, Integrity,

Related Tip of the Week:  Manners, Ignore List,

Suggested Reading:  The Tipping Point, by Malcolm Gladwell

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