Every parent wants to instill leadership in their children. From the example, they set the expectations they have; it’s about creating an environment that facilitates opportunities for growth, failure, learning, and accountability. Now that we are spending the majority of our time at home, I see the opportunity. Despite the busyness of work and the chaotic state of our house, I want to be a part of the memories and use this time to provide a learning environment that goes beyond the screen… because there is SO MUCH screen time.
During this crazy and unknown time, we all need a bit of help. Parenting styles may differ, but parenting is a team sport. And now more than ever, we are all in this together. As we acclimate to our new normal, here are the steps I’m taking to make my girls feel loved while setting them up for success later in life.
Working from home with children is hard, even if you have help. With three girls of varying ages, their needs and ability to entertain themselves vary greatly. My oldest needs guidance to complete distance learning. She’s eager to learn and loves school, but distance learning is new for all of us. My middle child is wrapping up her final year of preschool, and they are doing a great job of sharing worksheets, providing opportunities for engagement with classmates, and sharing. And my youngest is not yet two. She needs all of the attention.
So no matter how much work there is to do or how tired I am at the end of the day, I’m saying yes to:
- An extra story before bed, even if bedtime was 30 minutes ago.
- A walk around the block even when it’s time to get in the bath.
- A family game because it’s the kind of quality time we all need right now.
- A movie night after a day of far too much screen time.
- A flexible bedtime because rest time is a part of our daily routine.
I’m saying yes, even when I have a hundred excuses. I’m saying yes because it’s what they need and it’s what I need too.
Stick to a routine
After two weeks of being home with little to no normalcy, I know we all can benefit from a routine. While part of being home is the flexibility to adjust course, some degree of routine is key to setting expectations, completing the work that needs to be done, and feeling a small sense of accomplishment each day.
Routine ensures we do what needs to be done while leaving time for the fun stuff too. Our daily schedule includes fresh air, chores, reading and rest time, as well as work time. I’m also using this opportunity to create new healthy habits for all of us. The biggest opportunity for growth? Cleaning up after playing or completing an activity. Because cleaning up along the way is a lot less work than cleaning up after a day or week or play.
Boundaries are essential to a routine as well. It’s about following through on what you say. Expectations mean nothing if boundaries aren’t in place. I try (try being the keyword) to clearly communicate my expectations and the potential consequences. I reinforce my point to ensure it is clear and has been communicated. And while I’m not perfect, I try to follow through, even when it’s hard. It’s important that my girls learn to make time for what matters, as well as what, matters to them.
Share kind words
In the busyness of life, it’s easy to take moments and good deeds for granted. But our kids need to hear that they are doing well. They need to know that we notice the effort. They need to feel valued and loved.
During this pandemic, we all need good news even more. And this requires intention. One of my favorite activities that we do as a family is sharing our favorite part of our day when eating dinner. The moments my children share are rarely what I expect, and often, the moment they share is dinner itself.
And I love the example that kind words set. Because sometimes, I get to overhear the moments where my girls are helping one another and sharing kind words, and those are the parenting moments I live for.
Do the work
Growing up, there was always an expectation that I would help around the house. From cleaning my room to dishes (we never had a dishwasher) to mowing the lawn and even helping to shingle the roof, I never questioned the need to do the work. And I know that it contributed to my work ethic. I want to instill the same work ethic in my girls.
It’s important that my girls understand that being part of a family means contributing to the family. And no, I don’t mean earning money and earning your keep. I mean helping out. At our house, this includes cleaning up after ourselves (this is a work in progress), putting away clean clothes, feeding the dog, setting the table, and helping with dishes. I know that understanding we all have to do our part will help my girls grow up to be strong (and resilient) leaders in life.
Instilling leadership skills in children requires commitment. It’s not about the thing you do one time, but the things you do over and over again. So during this very intense time together, I’m trying to find the opportunity to be together and to set the best example I can because it’s hard to ask something of them if I’m not setting a positive example that aligns with my ask. Leadership is truly about leading by example, and it’s impossible to instill leadership skills without first leading yourself.