This is the third in our series of action strategies for positive leaders. Being a positive leader is a 360 degree responsibility. Every aspect of our lives affects our ability to be a powerful positive leader and if we wish to fully develop our leadership skills we must focus on both our personal and professional lives. This means devoting significant attention to our families and children. Today we are concerned with our relationship with our children. Positive Leaders teach their children how to be positive individuals and how to become Positive Leaders.
Give of yourself to your family. There are very few things in life that can bring as much joy as a happy family. Devote yourself to your family. There are many people in the world who have a limited number of personal possessions but yet experience joy in life because of their family. Put your family at the top of your priority list and make a commitment to family.
Families mean children and our children deserve the absolute best that we have to offer. What our children want and need are not nice things that we can buy for them. There are few possessions that add real meaning to their lives. What our children require are loving, giving, caring, sharing, supportive parents who spend time with them. Parents who pay attention to them, teach them, listen to them, hold out expectations for them, protect them, set boundaries for them, and demand discipline of them. These things are your responsibility. Your children need you to be there for them, to be strong for them. They need the best that you have to offer. Here are just a few things you can do.
Read to your children. Parents who begin reading to their children when they are infants not only establish a pattern of literacy but also create strong emotional bonds. Think about the process of reading to children. It involves spending time with your children in an activity that is emotionally, physically, and intellectually intimate. We hold them on our lap, cuddle up next to them in an easy chair or in bed; we engage their imaginations; the sound of our voice becomes imprinted in their hearts and minds and memories; we share laughter, adventure, and an entire range of emotions.
Play with your children. Get down on the floor and play with them; enter their world. Encourage their imaginations and let them explore new adventures while teaching them that they are safe and secure in your arms. Teach them not to be afraid.
Find time each day. Spend time with your children to make them feel special even if it is only a few moments. Hold them in your lap, have a snack with them, sit down to a meal with them, talk to them. Ask about their day and then truly listen to what they have to say. Take the time to understand the things that are going on in their lives. Teach them that they can share victories and losses, sadness and joy, fears and aspirations with you. Listen empathically. Empathic listening is striving to understand.
Do family things. Go on outings, play games, help with their homework, do house or yard work together, take vacations together. Tell them how special they are and tell them how much you love them. Tell them stories about when they were little. Tell them stories about you when you were a child. Kid around with them and laugh with them, especially when they tease you. Teach them how to laugh at themselves by laughing at yourself.
Give your children the structure of discipline. Set clear guidelines and expectations. Talk about values and about right and wrong. Don’t be afraid to say no and don’t be talked into something you know in your heart isn’t right. If your children throw a tantrum or keep begging for things, be strong for them and stand your ground. Such tantrums truly are a test; they are an attempt on the part of the child to gain control over the situation, inappropriately. Many parents give in to their child during such tantrums because they feel embarrassed that people are watching and passing judgment on them. What young parents do not yet know is that when the rest of us are watching them deal with a child’s acting out, we are not thinking badly of them rather we are thinking, “Been there! Done that!” There is security in clear and definitive boundaries. Your children need you to teach them that they cannot win those types of battles. Teach them how to handle disappointment.
Teach them responsibility. Hold them accountable for their actions. Do not shield your children from the natural consequences of their behavior. Do not bail them out or protect them when they make mistakes, but don’t abandon them either. Teach them how to admit their mistakes and to learn from them. Teach them by example, by honestly admitting your own mistakes. Teach them that mistakes are a natural part of learning, growing, and reaching for ever-higher goals and expectations. Be there for your children. Help them learn that even when they must stand alone that they are never truly alone; that we are with them always, even in their moments of despair.
Set a good example for your children. Lead the kind of life you want them to have. Do not use the “Do as I say, not as I do!” approach. Live your values and explain them along the way. Helping your children observe you living your life provides a far more powerful model than anything you can do or say. If your life is centered around things, if you look for ways to avoid hard work, if your behavior is illegal or immoral, if your values are shallow and superficial; these are the traits your children will emulate. If, however, you embrace life with a positive attitude and spirit, you are providing a model that will sustain them throughout their entire life, long after you are gone.
Get involved with your children. Visit them at school, volunteer to accompany their class on field trips. Participate in Girl Scouts or Boy Scouts, 4-H, Little League, youth soccer, dance or music classes, etc. Support their teachers and coaches and recognize that these and the other professionals who come into their lives are your partners. The one thing that can most assure a quality education for your child is a full and active partnership between their teachers and parents. Avoid creating scenarios in which your children find themselves in the middle of opposing forces.
Hug your children at every opportunity, both physically and emotionally and don’t stop just because they get to be a certain age. Kiss them and smile at them. Remember that the children who are hardest to love are the ones that need it the most. Remember that hugs, kisses and smiles are life-affirming to both the giver and the receiver. Best of all they cost absolutely nothing. They are free of charge and they are available in infinite quantity.
Avoid the pitfalls of affluence. One of the most difficult things in all of parenthood is to raise your children in affluence. Parents who shower their children with material gifts and possessions, things that have not been earned by their hard work and accomplishment, create an entitlement mentality. Such personalities lead to selfish, empty, and unhappy lives. Teach them that people are more important than things.
Teach your children to give of themselves. It truly is better to give than to receive and there are few things in life that create as much joy as a generous heart. Teach them also that giving of one’s self sometimes requires that we allow others to give to us. Help them learn the art of gracious acceptance of the gifts of others. Help them develop an abundance mentality in which there is always enough to go around. Help them learn that being able to delight in the joys and successes of other people is a precious gift.
Mitigate peer pressure. As your children get older, peer pressure will become a powerful force in their lives and unless you have done your job of preparing your children well, that peer pressure can literally alter the direction of your child’s life. The answer is not transferring your son or daughter to a private school where they can be protected from the world. The answer is to share with them the values they need so that they can live successfully in the real world. Teach them how to socialize with their peers but give them the strength of character they will need to extricate themselves when the group goes too far. Kids in possession of a healthy self-esteem and a clear value system are capable of making good decisions in even the most challenging of circumstances.
Let them do it. Don’t do it for your children if they can do it for themselves. We learn by doing and parents that insist on doing everything for their children only create dependencies. Teach your children to be strong and independent rather than weak and dependent. Remember that spilled milk is easier to clean up than the mess we create when we raise children who cannot stand alone. Also remember that being able to stand alone is not being alone. Once your children learn how to be independent, begin shifting their focus to inter-dependence.
Remember what it was like when you were a child. Do not expect perfection from your children and don’t expect it from yourself. It is inevitable that you will make mistakes with your children, all parents do. But children are remarkably resilient creatures and they will survive your mistakes as long as you do your best to love and cherish them. Remember that, like you, they are a child of Creation, however you choose to view Creation.