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Are you a parent? How do you see yourself? How would you define your role? This is important. It will impact everything you do with your child and how you do it. With the growing influence of gurus like Simon Sinek, business culture has begun to change from a management focus (a “boss” model) to a leadership focus. CEOs still require expertise in management, but the major shift has been to how business leaders see themselves. Why do they want to lead a group of people toward a specific goal? How do they view their relationship and their responsibilities to those that they lead?
I suggest that a similar shift needs to take place in parenting. Have you considered why you want to be a parent? How do you view your relationship to your child? What is the nature of your responsibility to him? What do you want to accomplish with her?
A boss does not concern himself with this. Why should he? He has the power and he wields it to get the results that he is looking for. He wants to accomplish his goal efficiently and move on to the next item on the “to do” list. Similarly, many parents feel that they have been given power and therefore they will get the results they are looking for. How this happens is not important, because their power will ensure their success.
The sad truth is that the more we parent using the “boss” model, the more we fail our children. A child cannot be nurtured by a boss. She may turn out fine, but it will be despite you, not because of you. Why? Because the wielding of power has no place in parenting. There is a big difference between recognizing your responsibility as a parent and wielding power.
Let’s use an example: Two different fathers set and enforce the same 9 p.m. bedtime for their 11-year-old. One is a boss; the other is a leader. What’s the difference? The boss decided on 9 p.m. because that’s when he went to sleep when he was that age or because that’s when his neighbor’s kid of the same age goes to sleep or that’s when he needs him to go to sleep because he doesn’t want kids around past 9 p.m. The common denominator here is that his decision is about him, not his son. His son may need to go to sleep at 9 p.m., he may need to go to sleep even earlier, but without the father considering his role and responsibility to his son, he is a boss not a leader.
The leader decided on 9 p.m. because over the past few months he has noticed that his son’s sweet spot is about 10 hours of sleep. With 10 hours of sleep, he is happy, energized, engaged in his schoolwork and able to interact positively with those around him. As a father, he sees it as his responsibility to ensure that his son can be in that zone, so he sets a 9 p.m. bedtime. He knows that this bedtime will change, and he commits himself to being flexible to his son’s needs when it does. For now, he is doing what his son needs from him (even if his son doesn’t know it).
Without defining our role and responsibility as a parent, by default, we turn into a boss. Our decisions are often arbitrary and swayed by moods and other insignificant stimuli. Take some time to reflect and if you are ambitious, write out a parenting mission statement. As you clarify this for yourself you will be more confident in your decisions, they will be easier to enforce, and your children will respond to them differently. They will trust you, respect your authority, and you will not have to result to wielding power like a despot.
And just as successful business leaders need self-awareness and objective feedback to ensure they are remaining true to the definition of their role, so do parents. How one accomplishes this is a private matter. Read, seek counsel, ask your children, meditate, study, ask a friend, go to classes, there are many options. The main thing is that to stay true to the role you have defined for yourself, you must be reflective, work at it and embrace growth and change. Just as your child is growing and developing so are you. Personal growth does not end with the responsibility of children, in fact, in many ways, it’s only beginning.