I have two grown up children, well, almost grown up. My son is 22 and my daughter is 20. Everyone said that they would grow up too quickly, and they did. I remember making my daughter promise that she would stop growing at age six, but she did anyway!
I look back on the early stages of their lives and wish I could relive it again. At the time I might not have thought so, but experience and hindsight are wonderful things.
Nobody gave us a handbook for parenting when our children were born; we kind of had to make it up as we went, remembering back to how our parents raised us and watching and learning from others more experienced.
As I reflect back on my last week as a leader I can see lots of similarities between being a good parent and a good leader. We can transfer many lessons between the two; for example:
It’s not all about you: your role as a parent is to raise an independent adult. Sometimes your child won’t like you. That’s ok. You are not their friend, you are their parent. A good parent knows it isn’t about your child liking you, and sometimes you won’t like them; but it is about you loving them regardless.
Good parents don’t play favourites: they are your children and you should never favour, or side with one over another. Your role is to show impartiality and wisdom when resolving issues between your children, helping them to grow and learn as a result of their conflict.
Great parents listen: they respect their children, valuing them as individuals, people who have a voice, ideas, passions and interests. Good parenting isn’t about creating a clone of you, but empowering them to live their own dreams.
Loving parents are willing to say sorry: It takes humility, but you have to be open to the possibility that on occasions your child may be right, and you’re the one in the wrong. Apologising isn’t a sign of weakness.
It’s about modelling: children learn far more from your actions than they do from your words. They see right through hypocrisy, but admire integrity.
Be the guide on the side: children don’t like being told what to do, particularly teenagers. They are quite capable, we don’t give them enough credit, and nine times out of ten they learn best from their mistakes. Failure is ok. Good parents are there not to judge, but to catch a child when they fall, helping them to bounce back and have another go.
And the most obvious, parents love each of their children: they know that their job is to care about every aspect of their children’s lives, not just their outward behaviour. They know that when their child is hurting they won’t be themselves in all other aspects of their life.
I hope I was a good parent to my children when they were growing up. I pray that the experience has made me a better leader to those entrusted to me now.