Empowering Parental Leadership

It may surprise you that leadership and parenting share common traits. In an interview with Penn Today, Stewart Friedman explained that leadership is “mobilizing people toward valued goals, building trust and inspiring them to move with you to a better future;” this applies to parental leadership.

It’s debatable whether parenting gets easier as your child grows older. Still, one thing that’s heavily agreed on is that the role should shift as kids reach new stages of development

You raised them through diapers and endured the terrific twos. You’ve watched them go from daycare to their first bus ride, injuries, middle school orientation, and more. Your parental track record is proven. Wins are under your belt. Now it’s time to update the game plan through parental leadership.

Let’s explore the concept of parental leadership and discover ways to enhance your leadership skills as a parent. 

Why don’t parents feel like leaders?

“As busy parents, we often default to acting like micromanagers, focusing our attention on scheduling, to-do lists, and making sure nothing falls through the cracks. Parents today often don’t think of themselves as leaders because it’s hard to take a step back from the day-to-day, to shift our mindset and behaviors from reactive to proactive like the best leaders do,” said Alyssa Westring. 

She’s right, you know. It’s common to disassociate our professional and personal lives, believing one could not benefit or apply to the other.

Another reason you may feel disqualified to lead your middle schooler at home is because of past experiences or failures. But your mistakes don’t have to be your child’s mistakes. And even if they are, they’ll have ample opportunity to make their own. Trust us. So before we get into what other experts say about parental leadership, the first step is believing that you can lead in your home. 

In fact, you’re your child’s first example of leadership. You’ve already taught them more than you realize. Now with some intention and guidance from others, you can up the ante or switch gears on your parental leadership.

Ways to enhance your leadership skills as a parent

The Harvard Business Review (HBR) offers several insightful leadership guidelines that can be applied to parenting. 

Their list includes: 

The pointers that stood out for us were the two “R’s”, reset and redefine.

It’d be silly to offer your potty-trained middle schooler a diaper, right? That’s where resetting your role as a parent comes in. 

Think of it like a leader grooming a successor or protégé, see yourself as a guide or coach who is setting up another person to spread their wings and be fully independent in your absence. Bring a development focus and meet your teen where they are now. This includes assessing their current life skills and acknowledging that they are growing up.

Harvard Business Review

Going back to our potty training example, your middle school no longer needs your help doing their “business” (granted, parents of middle school girls have the thrill of menstruating pre-teens to work through) but a conversation that could reset your role in this example is discussing safety measures when using the restroom in public, such as utilizing the buddy system when with friends (one person stands outside the door while the other is inside) or asking you or another adult to check the bathroom and stall (for lurking predators). 

Encouraging Their Independence

Redefining boundaries falls perfectly behind resetting your role as a parent because you set up boundaries according to your current reset stage with your child. As HBR put it, “Your goal is to safely widen the guardrails while empowering and offering autonomy within new limits.” 

The older your middle schooler gets, the more autonomy they’ll want. It’s hard to accept that your “baby” is growing up, but desiring independence is good. It means your child is healthily progressing in their development. The key is not to give them too much freedom. 

An example of implementing autonomy with a sixth grader who wants to wear makeup to school could be allowing them to wear eye shadow (any shade from a makeup pallet you pick) one day out of each school week (allowing them to choose the day each week). Again, the goal is to add appropriate amounts of freedom (along with your discretion) according to your child’s age and maturity level.

Other helpful leadership guidelines that carry over into parenthood come from LinkedIn. Like leaders in the workplace, parents are encouraged to be honest, supportive, flexible, courageous, fun-loving, responsible, fair (and firm), visionary, problem solvers, and passionate.

You can do this. You can learn techniques to inspire, guide, and empower your children. You can confidently apply parental leadership as an authority figure in your home. 

You’re already your child’s best example. It’s time for you to believe it too.

More support tips are available in the Parent Zone!

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Willaim Wright

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