Photo by Daiga Ellaby on Unsplash
Your greatest impact on the world may not be something you do, but someone you raise.
In fact, leadership author and pastor of the largest church in North America, Andy Stanley, says that being a parent is the only leadership role he has that cannot be done by someone else.
Yes, it’s worth investing in parenting tools early and often, since I hear it doesn’t get easier with teens.
To be clear, we cannot control our children’s behavior or future, but we want to stack the odds in our favor that our kids grow up to be responsible adults by taking the time to acquire solid parenting tools.
After working in a maximum-security prison for 10 years, I have come to believe that many of the worlds problems could be solved with better parenting practices.
The BIG Idea: Parenting is a leadership skill. And like all other skills, it can be learned and improved with good resources, time, and intentionality.
Most of the examples I will be using today are from the Love and Logic Institute, which I highly recommend. I have no affiliation with them, but their tools have been utterly life changing for my wife and I—and I would feel completely lost as a parent without them.
Their tools are practical, funny, and easy to remember—but most of all—they will make you a more effective parent, reduce your stress, and transform the futures of your children.
In my prior post on this topic, The Love and Logic Parenting Institute had announced their closure after 43 years. I’m happy to report that they have since re-opened and going strong.
Parenting is not a skill we are born with
Several years ago, I heard a comment that really shifted my thinking—“Most of us act like we will suddenly and magically know how to be great parents the moment our children are born.” Nothing could be further from the truth.
I hate to admit it, but I was one of those people. I thought someday I would just know how to be a good parent.
Even though my doctorate was in Family Psychology, I still felt completely unprepared when I became a new dad.
I still remember leaving the hospital the day after my daughter was born. I was strapping a crying baby into a car seat like a total amateur thinking—are you sure you are just going to let me drive off with this kid?!
I had more training and tests for my driver’s license than for taking complete responsibility for a brand new human!
I often hear people say something about raising kids that drives me crazy…”You know they don’t come with an operator’s manual!”
This phrase is often used by people who do not take advantage of all the amazing research and parenting wisdom that is more widely available today than ever before in history.
After all, Love and Logic has been around for more than four decades!
One disclaimer before I continue—we will never raise perfect kids or be perfect parents.
That is not the goal—and should not—be the goal. Many parents put far too much pressure on themselves.
Our results are only as good as our resources
For most areas in life, our results are only as good as the resources we use to achieve them.
In general, better resources = better results.
Parenting is not so different.
When I used what came naturally to me as a dad, my toolkit was generally limited to raising my voice or repeating myself exhaustively. It frustrated me, and wasn’t very effective to get my kids to do what I wanted them to.
When my wife and I began to invest in parenting books, classes, podcasts, and tools—we began to have less frustration, less outbursts, less battles for control, and more rewarding time with our kids.
Parenting is one of the most important leadership roles we will have in our lives, and the consequences for leadership behavior at home are usually more important and far-reaching than mistakes we make at our jobs.
Therefore, family leadership—and in this case the investment in parenting tools—should be treated as a foundational leadership area for leaders who want to lead well in all areas of life—with fewer regrets.
Life is harder for us—and for our children—when we don’t take the time to develop good parenting habits.
When you know you are leading with your best at home, you can also bring that strong foundation to work with you so that you can have more focus and impact, and less distraction from issues on the home front.
Sadly, in our hyper-busy, work-identity culture, many people don’t make time to invest in parenting tools.
Life only seems to speed up as the years fly by—and before we know it—the kids are out of the house.
Every parent I’ve ever met says that time goes much faster than you ever expect. The days are long and the years are short.
I’ve been studying Love and Logic for about five years now and I can say with absolute confidence, this is not the kind of thing you are going to read once and master.
I’ve had to go back to the material repeatedly, and practice the skills over and over again—usually making lots of mistakes along the way.
Like anything else in life, it requires lots of practice to improve.
If you have been thinking about investing in parenting resources, the Love and Logic tools are life changing.
Turn information into action now
Most strategies below are adapted from Love and Logic:
- Spend lots of time having fun with your kids. There is really no substitute for lack of time with your kids—or any relationship for that matter. Fun, time, and love are the foundational ingredients for a strong bond with your children. Plus, you want them to pick you a nice nursing home.
- Model the way. It’s been said that all leadership starts with personal leadership. And in parenting, more is caught than taught. Therefore, it is essential that you make personal leadership a primary goal for your life if you want to raise responsible kids. As a parent of young children, I am amazed when one of my daughters begins to copy something I never talked to her about. Most kids, especially early on, want to be like their parents—so make sure you set a strong example for the behavior you want.
- Make your home as much like the real world as possible. Your goal should be to raise adults, not children. And Love and Logic suggests we make our home life as much like the real world as possible. The price-tags for our mistakes are far smaller when we are young. Teen pregnancy, drug overdose, and drunk driving are the price-tags as kids get older, so allow lots of opportunities for making mistakes and reaping consequences early on.
- Turn your words to gold. This is one of the greatest lessons Love and Logic teaches, but also the hardest. You always express empathy first—“how sad”—then you give the consequence without any anger, warnings, threats, or lectures about their behavior. As a parent, my default behavior is to raise my voice and warn my kids a bunch of times, but this only teaches them to expect a ton of warnings before a consequence is given. Your anger also redirects their anger toward you, instead of the natural consequences of their own behavior.
- Never withdraw affection as a consequence. Have you ever had someone withdraw affection when they were mad at you? How did that make you feel? It doesn’t work with adults and it doesn’t work with kids either. It usually generates feelings of deep bitterness, anger, and resentment.
- Give away as much control as possible. Control is a basic human need. A mountain of research supports this. Give away as much control as you can through lots of silly choices throughout the day. That way, they will be more likely to comply when you do ask them to do something. If you don’t give away enough control, kids will fight for it until you are exhausted. Always give two choices that both work for you. “Do you want to go home in 1 minute or 2 minutes?” Get creative and keep practicing.
- Confidence comes from struggle. One of the hardest things as a parent is to watch your kids struggle to do something without stepping in to help them. We love the reward of being their hero, and it often saves time if we just do it for them. But if we aren’t careful, we can destroy their sense of confidence and produce helpless adults. Remember to offer a facilitated struggle—be there for support and assistance—but always stretch them a little beyond what they want to do on their own.
- Your external boundaries with your kids become their internal self-limits. This one is absolutely vital. Kids feel safer when their external world has limits, and they feel out of control when it doesn’t. You want to provide loving limits for many years until your child eventually develops internal limits and better self-control. Brain research shows that an adolescent brain is not fully developed until mid-twenties, so don’t give too much freedom too early. Help them develop great internal limits while the consequences for their choices are small.
Have a great weekend!
*If you have enjoyed Parker’s blog, check out The Next Peak Podcast that Parker co-hosts. We interview successful leaders and discuss research-based principles that help people win in the workplace without compromising the things that matter most—relationships, a life of purpose, and health.
- Love and Logic books by Jim and Charles Fay PhD, also with Foster Cline MD
- Boundaries with kids by Cloud and Townsend PhDs
- Happiest Baby (and Toddler) on the block by Harvey Karp MD