I was a nerd in school. My mother was a librarian and so any books that were assigned by teachers were read. Cliff notes were not an option. Now as an adult, I utilize book summaries, and sadly am addicted to audio books (while working out). My mother would cringe and ask if I forgot how to read a “real” book. So with apologies to my mother, I will offer the “cliff” version of a parenting/management manual. I have always felt that whether I am managing my team athletes, my staff or my own children that these axioms are invaluable. So here is the abrev. vers. of my manual.
We are the teachers of children: Understand that your child is in fact, a child. They are made from experiences that you have provided. Whether they are frustrating or a generator of great pride remember that you had a hand in it. Every time I have to “direct” my children I have to remember that I am the parent and they are the children. I have an obligation to teach them from every experience. If every moment is a teachable moment than it is up to me to be the instructor.
Attaining Mindshare: Our kids are hit with so much input every day. (see the post “The Battle for our Children” August 27, 2014). If we just throw input at them they will eventually callus over and all that effort on our part ends up falling on closed ears. I always remember that in marketing the rule is to get what’s called “Mindshare” a message must be seen 8 times. With that as my guide I set out to repeat the most important messages several times knowing that eventually I will attain Mindshare. Messages of lesser importance often fall away after being said and/or acted on immediately. “Clean your room” is a direction that calls for action, as opposed to “picking up your floor makes it safe for me to come in at night and kiss you goodnight.” The latter message might need several deliveries, but because kids are so overloaded with messages from all sides, I have to be patient enough to repeat myself…..a lot.
Me and the boys (vintage picture: 2010)
Look for Common Ground: Every day, seek a common areas of interest. My kids might find it very important to tell me about how their Lego guy makes pizza in the same room where he parks his laser guided hover-cycle and though I may not have a lot of interest in the Lego-verse, I need to find the interest because it’s important to my kids. I feel that finding common ground is laying a framework for communication skills both now and in the future. This, finding the DMZ, exercise is an investment for tomorrow that takes a little effort today.
Talk to them like little adults, not children: Every day, try to have a conversation with your child that illustrates how “people” talk. It is a pet peeve of mine to hear adults baby-talk to their children. Children learn language skills by listening to you and emulating your speech. When we dumb down our conversations or change our speech patterns we are doing a dis-service to the widdle cutey wooties with our big BIG words that widdl-ums can’t understand. Honestly, isn’t this nauseating? Would you talk to any adult like this? Also by having real conversations you can reinforce behaviors or implement changes if their behavior is not what you want. Either way, a conversation, just like you talk with your friends, will incorporate the concepts of Instruction, Mindshare, and Common Ground.
Compassion is a taught skill: Look for every opportunity to teach it. The best way to teach it to another person is to demonstrate it. There will be times when things don’t go right and your child is feeling bad, sad, or mad. Our job is to not discredit the sentiment but to be the shoulder they cry on. Compassion is basically allowing a person to feel and trying to see things from the perspective of those feelings. “All moments are teachable moments”, I said that earlier, but sometime the lesson is simply, “I know you are down. I feel for you.” Children learn from this and will eventually emulate your compassion with others. This makes them invaluable as friends, admirable as adults, and definable as good people.
There is a reverse to this suggestion too. If you are one to complain about people, speak negatively about them, or belittle them: you are still teaching, and you will see the pay off of those lessons too. And that payoff likely won’t make you proud, but still you need to understand it was you that taught it to them. Well done Jerk Face, you are so stupid. (awkward isn’t it?)
“Dad, I’m not you.”: One of the hardest things for me to understand sometimes is that my child is not me. Everyone always says, “Oh he’s just like you.” But I have to remember that they are not me, nor will I ever want them to be. They will arrive at who they are by experience and learning. I got where I am the same way. I can’t expect them to love gymnastics because I do. I can’t expect them to take over the business one day, or love cauliflower casserole just because I do. That is so unrealistic. So the perspective is that they will do, say, and think things differently than you do. That has to be OK because it’s the differences in people, even our kids, that makes them special.
Making kids feel smart guarantees that they will become smarter: Every day I try to say something to make my kids feel smart. Compliments are great and reinforcing good behavior is important, but complimenting intellect is essential. It’s so simple: “I forgot how much you knew about the Statue of Liberty”, “You really made a cool Lego house, I love the combination pizza oven/hover cycle parking room. How did you think of that?”, “You know how to use the lawn mower, can you help me out?” These are all statements that point out that the child is a smart, thoughtful and creative person. The old teaching adage of What we notice gets repeated, really applies. When we notice good brain power a child strives to provide us more impressive traits to recognize.
In the beginning I said that these are suggestions work for team kids and children in general. They apply, with some tweaking to building and maintaining a staff of employees too. Like a team gymnast who is training for higher levels, or a staff person who seeks more responsibility or a pay adjustment, training is required. I see children as adults in training, and every interaction is a potential lesson on how to be a good grown up. I see adults as teachers and like it or not, we are, in fact, always teaching. My suggestions are axioms that I aspire to live by, they are not for all people, and some you may even disagree with. OK. I can learn to live with that.