“I feel my brain cells slowly dying every day.” (recent status post on FB from a mom with young kids.) The mom who recently made that statement is clearly drowning in the frenzied white water of parenting. Although swimming in a sea of diapers, laundry, scattered toys and sibling squabbles may not feel very mentally stimulating to most of us, don’t despair. By being purposeful and mindful, you can learn significant ways to thrive in the midst of the chaos and hone important skills that make you more effective, more successful—and more joyful—both at home and at work.
Motherhood is a powerful training ground for leadership skills. The good news is that every day at home with your kids, you are given multiple opportunities to practice being a better leader—IF you notice these opportunities and train yourself to take advantage of them. Instead of merely slogging through each day putting out fires, squashing conflicts and completing menial jobs until exhaustion overtakes you, open your mind to a higher goal. At home, you are the CEO of a small business, and the lessons you learn there not only make you smarter, but they also transfer to your office, making you a more valuable manager at work. Here’s just three of the important leadership skills you can strengthen with your kids that will make you a better mom at home and a better manager in your workplace.
1. Building Trust
A work environment where people trust each other is essential for people to do their best and most creative work. Otherwise, employees are reluctant to offer their greatest ideas or to do more than they’re asked, for fear of making a mistake and being judged. Mindful moms can strengthen their skill of trust building at home.
Create a safe haven for your kids to share their problems and their fears, and then treat their feelings with sensitivity, compassion and respect. Make it easy for your kids to tell you the truth, knowing that it takes great courage to fess up.
Stealing from the Cookie Jar
Let’s say your six-year-old sneaks a forbidden cookie from the jar. Rather than accusing him of misbehaving, let him know up front that you saw him take it, but that you understand how tempting it must have been. You can teach him to tell the truth by taking away his chance to lie about it. It’s ok to impose a consequence, but focus on how much you value and appreciate his honesty. Everyone benefits because you develop a fair, genuine, honest environment at home, and you feel more confident to apply the same principles at work.
2. Strengthen Communication
The best workplaces are those where there is open communication and where information flows freely. When people feel heard and valued for their ideas, production goes up. Mindful moms can use the trenches of motherhood to strengthen their communications skills with their kids and be better prepared to use them at the office as well.
Remember to listen more than you talk. The idea is to learn what your child thinks. Don’t pre-judge a situation and don’t draw conclusions or give advice until you’ve asked a lot of questions, explored the situation from every angle and believe you fully understand the perspective of your child. Only then will your child respect and accept what you have to say.
One night about midnight some years ago, my teenage daughter called me from a friend’s house to ask if she could spend the night. I asked, I probed, I listened, and what I learned was that she was the only girl there—along with five other guys. I had to bite my tongue to prevent myself from blurting out how ridiculous her request was, but instead, we went back and forth respectfully until she felt heard. When I finally said, “I’m sorry, but the answer is no,” she complied and was home in ten minutes. That night we proved to each other that we could talk about differences without agreeing and even build our bond of relationship in the process.
3. Empowering Others
One of the most important qualities of a good leader is to see potential in her employees or team members. Mindful moms can maximize their natural skill of empowering on the home front by encouraging their kids to think for themselves and work independently and by inspiring them to be their best.
Helicopter parents hover over their kids, controlling them to make sure they don’t fail or make mistakes. The message to kids is that their parents don’t trust them to make wise choices, to take care of themselves or to be responsible. And kids respond by living out those parental expectations. But, if parents are purposeful in noticing and affirming the talents, skills and positive traits in their kids, it motivates them to reach for the stars. Let your kid make some of their own choices. Will they get into trouble and make stupid mistakes? Sure. All kids do. But the idea is to discuss the goal and then let them find their own way to get there. This is a skill that good leaders use every day.
Parenting is a Resume-Builder
When working moms enhance their skills at home, they’re also more effective at work. So when moms leave work to have a baby, they need to proudly assert, “I’m going to take time to advance my leadership skills and come back better than I was before.” And when they return, they can confidently list the leadership skills they’ve learned and have been practicing on their children. It’s time for working moms to feel proud of our accomplishments. Parenting is not a gap in our resumes. It’s the most effective training we could get in leadership skills.
About the Author
Dr. Joanne Stern is the author of “Parenting Is A Contact Sport: 8 Ways To Stay Connected To Your Kids for Life.” (see link below)
As a psychotherapist, Joanne has spent more than 20 years counseling families, parents, and teens. She specializes in relationships, drugs, and alcohol, eating disorders, and grief and loss. A mom for more than three decades (including 5 years as a single mom), she lives in Aspen, Colorado and is a new proud grandmama of Baby Isabel. Dr. Stern is a regular blogger for Psychologytoday.com and Care2.com; a monthly columnist for Parentingpink.com (the #1 source website for advice on raising strong, smart daughters) and an expert advisor/blogger for parentsask.com.