Parents often say that lack of respect and getting their kids to listen to them is their top challenge. There was a time that it was my top challenge too.
Here is what I did to address it and completely turn things around for the better. I approached parenting as a leadership position. I took what I knew of the best leaders and applied it to my parenting. It was a game changer.
As I looked at leadership, it became clear that there were better leaders than others. There were leaders who were respected, listened to, and celebrated. There were leaders who were not listened to and not respected.
That’s when I realized: The same thing happens in parenting. There are parents who are genuinely respected and can somehow get their kids to listen to them, and there are those who can’t. If effective leadership can be learned, so can effective parenting!
But there is the catch. It goes against a lot of what we know about parenting. The main difference between successful and unsuccessful leaders is that the best leaders hold themselves accountable for the success of the organization, while ineffective leaders blame those who they lead. Parenting has a long history of blaming children for bad behavior. If you want to become a good and respected leader at home, this paradigm must shift. A good leader does not do this. A good leader looks primarily at how he himself can positively influence and get the best out of those who he leads.
In short, I had to hold myself accountable and not my children for the tone, environment and success of the “organization”.
“The onus of responsibility for the smooth running of the family rests squarely upon the shoulders of the parents”.
Blaming children for a dysfunctional or stressed out family situation is like blaming Steve in the mailroom for not ensuring the overall success of the organization. As nice as Steve is, he is not the CEO.
Here are some specific things I noticed the best leaders doing:
The best leaders were focused on influencing through strong relationships and empowering those under them. They created cooperative environments of mutual respect, shared values and shared vision. On the other hand, it was clear that ineffective leaders were insecure. They focused on controlling, containing and power tripping on those under them. The top leaders were so confident that they didn’t feel the need to micromanage or power trip. They trusted and empowered their teams and brought out the best in them. Ineffective leaders seemed fearful and threatened. They limited the potential of the team and actually demotivated them. Can you relate to these descriptions of effective and ineffective leaders? Can you think of leaders you’ve known who fit these descriptions?
Here is what I learned to do to mimic the best leaders:
- Regulated my own behavior, stayed centered and composed.
- Created an atmosphere of positivity and possibility through the language I used.
- Built strong relationships through listening, empathizing and really caring.
- Allowed for and encouraged autonomy and real responsibility.
- Used conflict and mistakes as opportunities for connection and learning.
- Led by example.
I held myself to a high standard. I focused on acquiring and employing these real leadership skills at home.
It was not easy to do. It was a process. It took time and I needed support in doing it.
You can do this too.
My kids are the most important thing to me so I had to make sure I was giving my best to them. This meant that I had to humble myself and learn to act like a real leader at home.
After an investment of time and energy and after breaking old behavior patterns, my leadership skills significantly improved. I went from ineffective, reactive, and unfocused to confident and in control. My kids responded in the best of ways. They started listening to me, not out of fear, but mutual respect. I felt like a true leader.
If you are losing patience and feel like your children don’t listen, trust me there is another way. However, it takes willingness to reevaluate your parenting, and it takes support.
I believe it’s worth it. Our kids are worth it.