I know I don’t have to remind you (but I’m going to anyway) that parents are the most important leaders in their children’s lives, and therefore parents, like all effective leaders, must lead by example.
Through your actions, which are hopefully aligned with what you tell and teach your children, you become a person that your kids will hopefully want to emulate. When you as a parent say one thing but do another, trust — a critical element of any sort of leadership — is eroded.
Think for a moment about how this applies to your own personal relationships whether it is with your spouse, former spouse, boyfriend, girlfriend, other family members, etc. I bring this up because your kids are indeed watching and taking note of how you conduct yourself in your personal relationships, especially intimate ones.
You are setting an extremely important example for your children and influencing how they conduct themselves in their current and future relationships.
Here are 9 smart ways to be a strong leader for your kids:
1. Take responsibility
Blame costs you your credibility. If you are a divorced, single parent, remember that your former spouse is either the father or mother of your children, and your children probably have a very different view of your former spouse than you do. If you are constantly blaming your former spouse for everything, especially in front of your children, that might reflect rather negatively on you in their eyes.
2. Be truthful
Inaccurate representation affects everyone. Show that honesty really is the best policy. Kids are really smart, intelligent people. They can definitely tell if they are being lied to, and they will feel very resentful.
3. Be courageous
Be willing to walk through fire first, and take calculated risks. If you are faced with the possibility of potentially ending your marriage or relationship, as difficult and painful as it may be, you are also modeling for your children how to responsibly step out of your comfort zone in order to both grow as a person and create a better life for yourself and your family, despite how scary the unknown may be.
4. Acknowledge failure
It sends the message to your kids that not only is it okay to make mistakes, but it also gives them the permission and sense of safety to do the same. It defines failure as part of the process of becoming extraordinary. Additionally, it sends the message to your children that adults are human also and don’t always have everything all figured out.
5. Be persistent
As the old saying goes, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, again.” So your marriage may not have worked out, and you unfortunately had to learn a valuable lesson the painful and hard way. But it is still just one relationship.
If you resolve to swear off intimate relationships in the future, out of fear that it might not work out or that you might get hurt again, think about what kind of message that sends to your children. Would you tell your child to just give up and throw in the towel if they did not succeed in something they were attempting? Probably not. I would venture to guess that you would encourage them to get back out there and keep trying and not give up.
6. Create solutions
Don’t dwell on problems. Instead, be the first to offer solutions.
Ask questions. Seek to understand. You’ll receive valuable insights and set a tone that encourages healthy dialogue.
8. Take care of yourself
Exercise, don’t overwork, take a break. If you don’t take care of yourself and end up giving much more than you realistically are able to, then you won’t be any good to anyone else. Self-care is an expression of self-love.
9. Roll up your sleeves
Any successful relationship requires that both parties not just commit but do all that is within their power and capabilities to make the relationship healthy and successful. The responsibility does not rest squarely on one person.
Parents who go about exhibiting healthy behavior in relationships will then have children who will enjoy healthy relationships of their own.
Aaron Kaplan is a Coach Training Alliance-Certified Coach (CTA-CC), Certified Prepare-Enrich Facilitator, and CDC Certified Divorce Coach, who also happens to be an ordained member of the clergy.