How to be the parent you want for your children: A 5-step guide
"Your child will follow your example, not your advice." We all know that the stresses and challenges of modern life can put a strain on our family dynamics. Balancing a career, paying the bills, keeping healthy, eating well, doing daily chores, keeping the children motivated and on track, being a supportive partner... the list is dizzying. Too often we put ourselves under so much pressure that we neglect what's truly important. Fostering nurturing, meaningful relationships with our children is often our main concern, however, we let the struggle to 'do it all' blind us.
Yes, we want to be successful in our careers. Yes, we want a social life. Yes, we want to feel healthy and loved. But when family pressures lead to conflict, we are left feeling guilty, selfish and inadequate. So, what's the solution? Being the kind of parent that you dreamed you would be is possible when you are clear on what's important, what you can control, and what you need to see differently.
How can coaching help with family life?
Here are five steps to the ways in which coaching can help you to achieve a greater sense of ease and fulfilment in your family life and beyond.
1. Be yourself
I used to kiss my kids goodbye each morning and say, "Be your best self today!" The sentiment was obvious: try your hardest, give your all, be the best version of you. But one day my youngest turned to me and said, "Mummy, sometimes I just feel quiet or sad but I’m still being my best me." It was a cracking point.
Being yourself means your true, unfiltered, honest self in all its shades and with all its ups and downs. Recognising and accepting that all of that messy emotion is valid, necessary and part of you is the first step to acknowledging what being yourself means.
Accepting yourself in all your many facets will allow your kids to learn that emotions and feelings are not always pretty. They are an essential part of who we are and should be acknowledged for what they are. There’s no need to polish yourself up to be a shiny vision of perfection – that’s not real. Be honest. Be yourself.
2. Honour your values
Firstly, what even is a value? Well, in coaching, we identify values as being the things that are most important to us. Our strongest beliefs, our guiding principles, the north stars by which we navigate life. Values are crucial to knowing what you want from life and how to live in a way that will make you feel like you’re living rather than surviving. It’s a sad fact that most adults are bumbling through life with no clue about what they hold most dear.
How often do we compare ourselves to others? Social media can land a crushing blow if you’re feeling below par. The constant temptation to measure ourselves against the ever-present successes of others (including their children) is ubiquitous.
If we constantly measure ourselves and our children against others, we are buying into a competitive view of life that pits us against one another. Dog-eat-dog, be the best, beat the opposition. True contentment and harmony often get brushed aside in our search for the next win. And yet, when you know what’s truly important to YOU, so much of this additional pressure is released.
A coach can help you to identify your values – that’s to say a list of between eight and 20 qualities that really matter to you in life. From that point forward, sticking to those non-negotiables is an exercise that gives family life meaning and structure.
Sure, you can encourage your kids to go for that next Karate belt, but ultimately, if they don’t, it needn’t be the end of the world. Living life according to someone else’s values is meaningless. When we know our values and live in congruence with them, the result is harmony and fulfilment. What better message could we teach our children?
3. Be aware of your triggers
A dear friend of mine holds a value of respect. As a result, she is scrupulous with timekeeping and feels it is pretty disrespectful if people show up late. Knowing that respect is one of her key values allows me to understand why she feels so cross when that value is being trampled or ignored. (I can then ensure that I leave plenty of time to make sure that I meet her on time!)
Families are no different. If you hold a value of honesty and find that a family member has been dishonest, it is likely that your reaction will be much stronger than if their behaviour doesn’t impact your values. When both you AND your family are aware of each other’s values, you can do a better job of respecting each other and understanding why reactions to some things can be so extreme.
4. Recognise patterns
‘I’m not going to shout… I’m not going to bribe… I’m not going to give in…’ We’ve all been there! We have such good intentions and then it all goes wrong and we revert to the behaviours and patterns we know best. The first step to changing our behaviours is to notice them. Noticing is a skill that your coach will help you to hone so that you can start to put more effective useful strategies in place. Once you know the patterns surrounding your trigger points, you can explore the alternatives and arm yourself with more effective approaches.
Learning to quickly and genuinely let go is a skill that you can learn and practice. Nobody is perfect and we all make mistakes. Being able to forgive yourself when you haven’t been the parent or partner you hope to be is crucial. In the same way, being able to drop your own lens and see conflicts from a different perspective is a key skill that coaching will help you to achieve.
Once you are able to see conflicts from other angles, it becomes possible to let go of the emotions tied to your perspective. Being able to let go of unhelpful emotions and concentrate on moving forward with what’s truly important to you and your family is transformative.
So much of family life depends on how we show up as adults. Being clear about what’s important to you and letting go of the rest creates a greater sense of harmony for everyone. If we are content, fulfilled and at peace with who WE are, it’s likely that our children will learn what’s truly important in life too. After all, children are great imitators, so give them something great to imitate.
If you would like to know more about how coaching could help you, please get in touch.