Raising a family is tough. Every parent knows it, and every stage of a child’s life brings with it its own unique joys and challenges. As parents, there’s a unique brand of leadership that falls to us. Family leadership is nuanced. There are many approaches and philosophies to follow when raising our children. Many times, it has to do with our own personal values and styles.
Ultimately, though, family leadership has this in mind: we want to raise our children to be successful in life and in relationships. We want them to have good lives. As parent leaders, our goal is to positively inspire our children to grow into their best selves.
Sounds easy, right?
Here are my top tips for great family leadership!
5 Essential Components of Effective Family Leadership
1) Establish what your family values.
What’s important to you to pass on to your children? No doubt you have a long list! We all have things that we want to instill in our children. We want them to grow up to be kind and compassionate, self-controlled and respectful. We want them to value their health. We want them to live with integrity and honesty. When it comes to these family values, we 100% lead by example. If you want your children to come to value these things, you have to value them first: even if you think they’re not watching or listening.
Being a parent leader isn’t just about teaching your children lessons. It means leading by example in how you treat the server at the restaurant and talk to people on the phone. It’s how you deal with situations when you’re angry and upset. It’s how you handle being cheated and lied about and discredited. These tough times are what your kids will remember. More specifically, they’ll remember your response.
Only you can decide what is valuable to your family. Just remember: it’s up to you to champion those values.
2) Be consistent.
For children, consistency is crucial. If something is perceived as unfair or a sudden change of rules, it really throws them. As a parent leader looking to earn the trust and respect of your child, consistency in your rules, rewards, and punishments is important. Keeping promises? Important. Be consistent. Teach your children the importance of integrity in that way, in that your word matters and that you can be trusted.
3) Be present and seek balance.
You can’t lead if you aren’t there. Too many parents make the mistake of believing that they’re doing a good job of parenting if they’re “providing” by earning the money while the other parent does the caregiving. We find that the children in these situations really don’t care about the things that that money can buy them—they would rather have their parent at home more.
Be present. Be in the picture as much as you can, regardless of your circumstances.
Remember, too, that being present isn’t just about being physically in the room. It’s being there for your kids mentally and emotionally, too. Are you available?
Beyond that, parent leadership is about helping your family achieve balance. We live in a culture that wants to swallow up our schedules. As leaders, we have to protect our families from the burnout that can come from having too much to do.
4) See problems and mistakes as learning opportunities.
When things go wrong (read: when our kids do something wrong) it’s almost always our first instinct to punish. And while a punishment of some kind is usually appropriate, because actions should have consequences, as leaders, it’s also valuable for us to approach these times as teachable moments.
Instead of jumping to punishment and punishment alone, what can be taught here? Can you take this mistake, heartbreak, or problem and turn it into a learning opportunity? This is a valuable skill for your children to take with them so that their mistakes don’t defeat them in the future.
5) Value emotional intelligence.
Lastly, I believe parent leaders need to stress emotional intelligence. I’ve written about emotional intelligence a few times on this blog, and not without reason. Experts believe that emotional intelligence is right up there with intelligence and education as an indicator of future success. It may even be more important.
It’s the ability to identify, assess, control, and manage your emotions. It means you can more easily process and express them and understand the feelings of others, too. This self-awareness is useful for developing social skills and empathy. As parents, we need to look for ways to help our children develop emotional intelligence and learn to manage their emotions in healthy ways.
As parent leaders, we have a tough job ahead of us. It can be overwhelming at times. Leadership is a heavy burden, but take heart in knowing that giving your children the strong leadership of a good parent is invaluable to their future success.