One of the most common complaints parents have is that their children don’t listen to them. Do you have a difficult time managing your family? Are you frustrated by the constant nagging required to get your kids to cooperate? Some of the best managers in the business world find themselves in this predicament at home. How can they be superstar managers at work, yet feel so helpless at home?
From the dawdling third grader who makes you late for work every day to the middle school student who refuses to do his chores, parents and kids get swept up into painful, ongoing control struggles. A common theme in many cases is a lack of parental leadership. When parents don’t stand up as a leader at home, certain struggles will recur and invariably lead to friction and unhappiness.
Some parents report that after a day at the office, they just don’t have the energy to do anything but feed and bathe the kids before collapsing. Others miss their children so much, or feel so guilty when they’re at work, that they don’t want to be the “bad guy” at home. When they’re with their kids, they just want the time together to be peaceful.
Although not rocking the boat might seem easier in the short-term, in the end, it won’t result in a peaceful home. It sets the stage for the opposite: kids who don’t listen. And why would they? Just as employees need an effective boss to guide them, so do children.
Successful business and parent leaders don’t rely on power, they cultivate influence. Relying on power, whether it’s to manage workers or to get children to behave, leads to power struggles and ongoing battles. “Because I said so” will lose its effectiveness as a child grows up, creating resentment and antagonism.
Children have a fundamental need to be seen and recognized for who they are; this forms the basis for a strong parent-child connection. Accepting the essence of who your children are is the starting point in parenting. This provides fertile ground for your positive influence. Your child will care about what you think and will naturally look to you for guidance.
Leadership toolbox for parents
Promote the family as a unit, so each individual knows he or she is part of the greater whole. The most stable, consistently performing businesses create an inclusive group culture. Think of how Southwest Airlines promotes itself as a family, where everyone contributes to the common good. At home, reinforce the idea that family members are a part of something bigger than themselves. This sense of belonging fosters cooperation. Make family dinners a priority. Studies have shown that across the board, children do better the more often their families have dinner together. Given the weekday schedules of typical families, family dinner can be just 30 minutes together. Just carve out the time and expect everyone to be there. (“On Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, we’ll eat together between 6:30 and 7:00 p.m., and on Sundays, we’ll have family dinner with Grandma and Grandpa at 5:30. Please don’t schedule anything that conflicts without talking to me first.”)
Set and communicate clear, consistent standards of behavior. Employees need a job description to do their job properly and children need to know what’s expected of them as well. The more specific the better (as developmentally appropriate) so they can learn to make choices about their behavior. Starting with toddlers (“hitting is not acceptable”), through the teen years (“We want you to text us your location”), make sure you clearly communicate how you expect your kids to behave. If your daughter’s job is to clean the bathroom every week, make a checklist and include scrubbing the shower, sink, countertop and toilet, mopping the floor and whatever the other specific tasks are.
Build in accountability. Standards of behavior are essential yet ineffective unless coupled with accountability. At work, employees have tasks to complete, deadlines and periodic performance reviews. If you’re wondering why you have to nag your kids to do every chore, ask yourself if you’re holding them accountable. Set a specific deadline for completion, communicate it clearly and check to make sure the job is done by then. If you don’t check to make sure your child has followed through, you’re encouraging noncompliance, because your child has no incentive to do things he or she doesn’t care to do unless someone is checking.
Follow through with clearly communicated, bottom-line consequences. Employees are fired if they don’t perform their job duties. When parents get fed up with having their requests ignored, they might wish they could fire their children! How many times have you seen parents threaten their kids if they don’t behave, but don’t follow through? These parents are actually training their kids to ignore them, because if there’s no real bottom line, children will continue to do whatever they want to do, tuning out the constant nagging and threats. Set, communicate and follow through with reasonable consequences for not completing a task. Children will learn about the consequences of their behavioral choices. (“It’s noon, and the bathroom is not clean. Therefore, as we agreed, you will lose your TV time tonight. And tell your friend you can’t come over until you finish your chores.”)
Take a look at how your leadership skills stack up at home. Are you creating a strong parent-child connection? Are you developing true influence or are you relying on your power? Are you leading your family by creating a strong sense of family, setting standards for behavior, holding family members accountable and following through with bottom-line consequences? Your family life will flourish when you step up to the helm.
Nancy Rose is an author and speaker from Napa. Calling herself the “Acceptance Advocate,” the former tax attorney and CPA speaks to groups of parents, educators and change-makers about the importance of accepting children for who they are, not who we want them to be. Her book, Raise the Child You’ve Got—Not the One You Want, will be released in Sept. 2013. Learn more atwww.nancyjrose.comor call (707) 266-6178.
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