Since World War II, the Royal Canadian Regiment has use the slogan “Never pass a fault.” when teaching recruits about discipline on the base and at camp. The phrase means that if you see something isn’t working, or if there’s something that is poorly done, incomplete, or breaking down, it is your job to make sure it gets fixed. Never assume that something is going to resolve itself, or that it is someone else’s problem to take care of.
I have never served in the Canadian Armed Forces, but I find this idea has been incredibly useful in my life, especially as a work-at-home dad. It is easy to leave things undone, to leave dishes in the sink when you’re tired at night, to let a faulty lightbulb go till it’s burnt out, to ignore those bothersome little checks, like your monthly fire alarm test. Just keeping the house clean, and keeping your family fed can be enough work to tire you out. Some days, you would rather just leave that one little thing undone for now, and go back to it later when you are not ready to fall flat on your face.
But, it isn’t worth it to pass a fault. That little thing you ignored today, could turn into a big problem later, when you find yourself staggering around in the dark because that flickering light bulb finally went out at An Inconvenient time. Or when you get the water bill after letting a faucet or a toilet run.
More importantly, the moods of the people in a home are strongly influenced by the repair and condition of that home. Little problems wear on the subconscious mind. Kids get crankier and more rebellious in a house that has little faults. Wives’ sex drives go down when there are endless little things to distract them and make them feel like their home isn’t in good repair, and relationships generally suffer.
On the other hand, if your kids see you always taking care of things now, they become less likely to procrastinate on the little things they have to do. You can teach them by example how to maintain a good, and orderly house.
You don’t need to be perfect, in fact, a house with kids never will be. But if a problem is big enough or annoying enough to draw your attention, take the time to fix it as soon as you can. There is nothing to be gained and a lot to be lost by leaving something undone.
Better yet, if you apply this principle consistently, it becomes your habit. It doesn’t matter if you were tired or grumpy, screwing in that loose light bulb, tidying up that floor, or salting your driveway is something you will do automatically, without mental effort. That is a habit worth developing.