I have taken some liberties with a recent blog post, How to Become a Leader by Marcia Reynolds. Marcia lists 4 tips for being a leader and as I read it I couldn’t help but think how this advice also applies to parenting. In my mind parents are CEO’s of their own families. Being a parent/leader when they are little is easy. But things shift when kids become ‘tweens’ and many of us struggle with that fine line between being our child’s ‘friend’ and being ‘their parent’.
Here are some tips (thank you, Marcia) for stepping out of the friend role and into your parent leadership position:
Leadership Tip #1: Help your children know they can accomplish more than they thought they could. Stand for what is possible for each of your children. Do not accept low or mediocre performance. Tell your children why you believe in them, what you have noticed they can do well. Your belief in them could be the inspiration to excel.
Leadership Tip #2: Set out clear expectations and consequences. Children need to know what is expected of them or else they feel set up to fail. Your children may complain that the expectations are unreasonable. If you feel they are achievable, tell them why you think this and be clear about the support that is available to help them reach the goals. Do not bend and lower the bar. DO NOT STEP IN AND DO THE WORK YOURSELF. If there are consequences for not achieving specific goals, you must stand by the consequences as well. Your children may grumble but in the end they will see you as a committed parent with clear boundaries and expectations.
Leadership Tip #3: When children come to you for advice, don’t give it to them right away. Discern what they know and fear first, and then discover the answers together. Being “the one who knows” stunts their growth. In Gary Cohen’s book, JUST ASK LEADERSHIP: Why Great Managers Always Ask the Right Questions (McGraw Hill/2009), he shows how CEOs, managers, and supervisors can ask the right questions in the right contexts. This can be true of parents as well. Asking your children the right questions empowers them, opening the door to greater productivity and creativity. When you help children find the answers on their own, they grow before your eyes.
Leadership Tip #4: Forgive. No one said parenting was easy. When you first become a parent, you often have to “pay your dues.” You may struggle with support and have to work through conflicts with your partner or spouse and your children. Hopefully, this stage will pass as you stay true to being a parent instead of a friend. When it does pass, don’t hold any grudges. Forgive your children. Believe in their abilities to excel. Discover their passions and what they want for their own lives. Do your best to help them achieve this.
As a parent/leader, you are an example, whether you are consciously choosing your behavior or not. Be clear about your mission, see the gifts each child brings to the table and then choose to stand strong. Your children will respect you based on how you treat them, but also how you remain true to your word.
Adapted from How To Become A Leader by Marcia Reynolds