Are you a Leaderful Parent?
Have you ever thought of yourself as a leader to your children? If you’ve been a leader in your profession, like me, you will have noticed the similarities between leadership and parenting.
Have you ever invested in leadership training and found yourself drifting in your mind to think about your children? I do it all the time, I’m always thinking of ways to align leadership models to my parenting. And, whenever I implement these approaches they work! Leadership is about connecting with people and providing a space for them to become the best versions of themselves. Sound like parenting?
Most of my inspiration comes when I’m thinking about children and parents which is why I’m so passionate about supporting families.
I remember reading that you should treat your children like you are their CEO. I like that! Of course, only if it was a good CEO – we all know they can be ‘hit and miss’. But when they are good, “wow!” A company can be incredible.
I like to think of myself as my children’s leader. I’ve always loved my leadership roles. I enjoy leading people, helping them enjoy their work and “kicking goals”.
I’ve also learned about the lasting influence you can have on people when you lead them well. It sets them up for their future.
The thing about leadership is that it involves a lot of reflection, growth and intent. Great leadership is not a mistake!
Now that has me thinking… is parenting as intentional?
Sometimes when I look at my parenting, I realise that I either succeeded or failed by mistake.
Parenting on Hourglass Time ensures you parent with intent and that you reflect and reset where necessary. It stops us from parenting by mistake because we are present.
Here’s a blurb from a resignation letter I received from one of my team members once. Now, this is not so I can toot my own horn, I promise! This is to demonstrate the similarities between parenting and leadership.
As you read this, imagine your child writing this to you when they grow up.
“I would like to say a special thank you to you. I appreciate and feel so honoured to have worked under your leadership. You have helped a great deal in shaping my career and the person I am today. Words cannot describe how helpful your guidance and advice has been and for the opportunities you have given me. I will forever be grateful for the support, knowledge and skills that I have gained working with you. You have been a role model for me and many others in our organisation, and though I am sad to say goodbye, I know that I have also made a friend and we will still be able to see each other excel”.
What do you think? would you like to receive that from your children when they grow up? I know I would.
Can you also see how parenting like leadership (when we do it well) can be incredibly powerful!
Of course, we can also draw on our attributes as parents to improve our leadership skills.
Similarities between parenting and great leadership?
Consistency is one way we can support our children to trust us, to know what to expect and to feel safe. Our children’s default is to trust us – it’s biological – but if we were more intentional this would set them up for success. Is there anything you think you can improve today to create a greater sense of trust for your children?
I was speaking with a Mum the other day who told me about her anxiety when her son climbs trees and takes risks. She said she is so anxious, and it cripples her – she usually thinks of the WORST-CASE scenario. She explained how she avoids letting her children see her anxiety because they “can’t know she is scared”.
This got me thinking… Is it best to try to hide anxiety from our children or to recognise it as human nature? And make it a learning experience?
I shared with her my own anxieties and how I am honest with my children about what I’m experiencing (I sugar coat it a little). I talk to them about the strategies I use to overcome it. I want my boys to know I’m Human and I’m vulnerable so they can be free to also be human. I also think it’s important for them to know I have a growth mindset and even though I’m an adult, I too need to develop. It takes the pressure off them a bit.
As a leader, I am a strong believer in building a culture where mistakes are okay and we use them to learn and grow. I do the same with parenting, and sometimes I’m the one making the mistakes – okay often. I know how powerful it is when you are a leader and you apologise for and own your mistakes – you can see the team exhale with relief. Could this be the same for your children?
What is the culture in your family around mistakes? Do you show your children you are vulnerable?
People often say to me that they find it interesting hearing me talking with my boys because I speak to them like I would speak to an adult. I guess the ‘human’ thing comes in here too for me. I’m always saying to education professionals that children are people too and we should think of them as capable citizens of our community. So, I certainly practice what I preach and enjoy deep conversations with my children.
My friend was blown-away the other day when my six-year-old son explained to his Dad that his Brother didn’t want to talk on the phone. He said, “He’s just going through the process of transitioning out of a game and he’s not ready to talk just yet, I can see he will be ready soon”. Just like talking with the boys about my feelings, I also describe theirs too, in adult words. Why not? Do you have grat communication with your children? what could you do today to improve your communication?
Again, if we take a lesson from leadership, we can implement approaches such as the 80:20 rule where you ask questions 80% of the time and make statements 20%. Or you listen 80% of the time and talk 20%
There are many other leadership communication approaches we can and will draw on inside my course.
Openness and availability
So, here’s Hourglass Time! Being available… Being present.
There is nothing worse than a boss half listening to you whilst answering emails. It totally disengages you from their leadership. Why would we do that to our children?
I know we live with technology around us and there are times when I’m on my phone and my children want my attention.
I’m not saying always remove your phone. But can you look up and say something like ”I want to hear your story, but I know that if I finish this right now, then I can give you my undivided attention”. This lets them know you care and that you are going to focus on them when you are available.
Create uninterrupted time
Hourglass Time again – how do you do this? Just like if you are a leader and you are going to hold a meeting with your team, you schedule it and have no distractions.
How often do you create time and space in your world for this with your children?
I started with bath time… every night at bath time, I made sure my phone was not with us. It was elsewhere and I was with them. Then we moved to Hourglass Time in the car. I stopped taking phone calls in the car. We listen to audio-books, sing songs, make up stories, laugh, talk and seat-dance to our favourite songs. It’s been so life-changing that now, we’ve created so many of these times, that I can’t even find my phone most of the time. Corporate meetings have been replaced wit
h Hourglass Time with my children.
We set goals with our boys. Not Big Hairy Audacious Goals, or even SMART goals at this point, just things to focus on. For example, my eldest son was getting very distracted and taking ages to do everything – like brushing his teeth – so we set a goal. It was ‘FAST & ON TASK’. That was it. Easy. Every time from then when he was distracted, we reminded him ”fast and on task”.
Do you set goals with your children?
Remember though, just like with good leadership, it’s best to have the person involved in setting the goal. You can’t set a goal for them and expect them to achieve it. It must be important to them. Making it fun and achievable is always going to deliver better results too!
Having a vision
It has dawned on me that’s it’s odd that we don’t create a parenting vision. It’s important to know what you are working on or where you are going. Otherwise moments run into days, days into months and all-of-a-sudden… years have passed. In my course I will be delving deeply into what your family vision is and how to set yourselves on a path to feeling accomplished.
Leading with excitement and enthusiasm
One of my colleagues shared a story about when he arrives at Kindy to teach for the day he often brings a paper bag and rustles it as he walks in. Children get so excited and run over to learn what he has brought with him. One day he didn’t have anything in it, so he popped his stapler from his desk into the paper bag. They all said ‘wow, a stapler’. What happened here is that he lead with excitement, enthusiasm and wonder. Children used that stapler all day for creations.
It’s a great example of how we can turn an ordinary engagement with children into something with awe, wonder & possibility.
How can we do that as parents? Excitement is contagious! It’s that simple. Be excited, even if it’s about something you find boring. It worked for me in leadership, and it works as a parent.