Being a parent of a 13 year old teenager, or any teenager, for that matter, is never an easy job. Instead of focusing on the things that are challenging for me, I decided to reflect on my journey as a parent and all the lessons parenthood thought me. And yes, some of them I had to learn the hard way. I have experienced highs, lows, doubted myself, learned much and have been stretched in ways I couldn’t have imagined. And the same can be said about my journey as a leader.
“There is no greater leadership challenge than parenting” Jim Rohn
Trust and enablement
My son planned to go to the city to hang out with his friends. Instead of asking for a lift he wanted take the bus by himself. And I have to admit it wasn’t easy for me to let him go. My head was spinning with all the things that could go wrong. “What if he gets lost?” “What if he is not able to find his way back home?” And as I was watching him proudly leaving the house, I realized that it is not my role to walk with him, to handhold him, but to enable him to find his own way. His way might be a different path that I would have chosen, but he will find his way.
No right or wrong answer
As a parent I have tried different parenting approaches. I kept asking my parents and other parents for advice on how to deal with certain situations. And many times I tried exactly what they did, just to come to the conclusion that much of the advice didn't work with my child. There are so many different ways to approach parenting, and what works for one child, may not work for another. Yet, we all have amazing kids.
Getting to know them and understanding what matters to them
My son has been saying for good few years that he wants to be a professional gamer or youtuber. And I kept encouraging him to look at other MORE TRADITIONAL jobs, tried to change his dreams and live his life the way I wanted him. But when I took the time to really understand his thinking, why he is so passionate about it and why he enjoys is so much, I realized how different we are. And when I acknowledged who he is as an individual and took the time to understand him, magic happened and our relationship changed for better.
Even though we live in the same house and had many conversations, they were more focused on the tasks he needed to complete or on the things that happened during his day. But spending more time with each other, and moving the conversations away from the doing towards the being, helped me to get to know him better and helped us build a stronger and deeper connection.
Listen more, talk less
As a parent, I always felt the need to protect him, tell him what to do, how to do it and solve problems for him. Believe me, I tried to bubble wrap him, but it didn’t work. By supporting, encouraging and asking him the right questions, I realized that he is more than capable of finding his own solutions.
I learned the importance of providing clear instructions, otherwise this could lead to misunderstanding. Who knew that "clear your room as soon as possible” can be unclear and the room won’t be cleaned for days.
My son is probably the hardest opponent in a debate that I ever had. He seems to have an answer for everything. And I realized that everything I ever said can be used against me. And the more you argue the better they get. Learning how to negotiate with a teenager, gave me a powerful tool to negotiate in a business world.
Stepping out of comfort zone
My son thinks of me as a parent as someone who will enable him and will do impossible things for him. He challenges me and forces me to get out of my comfort zone. Very often I find myself in uncomfortable situations. For example when I had to sit on Santa’s lap when he was smaller and he wanted to me to take the picture with Santa first. This practice gave me confidence to do things that I never thought I would do.
Taking care of myself
It is easy to get wrapped up in my child and put him first all the time. Because I love him. And sometimes that meant forgetting to take a shower, forgetting to eat, running out of the house in my pajamas, because he forgot to set his alarm and he is running late for school. But being hungry, tired, not properly dressed and let’s not forget smelly, didn’t help me to take care of my son as well as I should. I needed to prioritize things, pick my battles and to take care of myself first. Taking some time for myself, recharging, clearing my mind, focusing on things I enjoy are making me the happy, satisfied, energetic and fun parent my child needs.
Mistakes are inevitable
I quickly realized that even if I have the best intentions, I won’t always have all the answers and right approaches. This leads to mistakes that I make as a parent. There are times when my emotions can take over and I don’t handle the situation in the best possible way. Acknowledging my mistakes and communicating them, shows him that nobody is perfect, everyone makes mistakes and they present and an opportunity to learn from them.
It is a journey
Just when I think I have it all figured out, the curveball comes. The approach that worked yesterday, is no longer working today. And I will need to adjust again and again.
And I know that leading and managing adults at work is obviously not the same as parenting children. However, the skills parents have to demonstrate on a daily basis, are skills that are required in a workplace as well, if we know how to translate them.