Isn’t it interesting that we marvel at leaders we respect talking about how much they’ve learned about life and leadership from being a parent? I do it too. I’m doing it now at myself, not because I’m a great parent or leader but because despite not being great at either I was still able to mine so many principles to put into this short post. I’m not saying “everything I know amount leadership I learned by being a dad”, I am saying that I’ve learned a lot though. This is so amazing to me because it’s so easy to become a parent that I bet you can think of a handful of people right now that should not be allowed to reproduce in your opinion but, alarmingly, continue to anyway. And they seem to learn nothing from it.
I have a five year old little boy, and here’s what I’ve learned so far:
1) The necessity of patience:Notice I didn’t say simply patience. I may actually be less patient than I was B.C. (before Camden), but developing patience is more of a priority in my life than it ever was before.
2) The necessity of working through exhaustion: Unlike patience I think I have picked this one up. In the military I learned to sleep standing up, in formation, and even while marching. As a father I learned how to simply do without sleep. I’m sure my wife is rolling her beautiful eyes right now because she does tend to get less sleep than me, but thats just because when I do sleep I sleep much more deeply than her. And I snore. So she learned this lesson when we got married.
3) How to contain conflicting emotions: If you’re not a parent you still may have encountered situations where you’ve felt certain opposing emotions in equal measure simultaneously. For the parent, however, this can be a daily occurrence and it can be taxing. It is a mystery to me how we can do it. And since I don’t understand and control the mechanism for doing it I don’t always do well at it. It may well be the leading cause of insanity among those with multiple children (I have no data to back that up, but it sounds right doesn’t it)
4) The necessity of mentoring and being mentored: You can’t just teach your kids how to be good people and do the right thing, you have to show them, and you do whether you try to or not. Yet I didn’t learn to be a good mentor, or even how to find one. Only that it’s necessary.
5) The necessity of praising long and correcting short: This is the one I wish most I had gotten good at sooner ( which is not to say I’m good at it now). For a long time I treated follow through on correcting my son like I would holding a grudge against an enemy. It was sort of a “I’m doing this to you so you’ll see how it feels” kind of mentality. This is dangerous, in my opinion, because it can lead to a parent having a victim mindset about the behaviour of their child and it sends the message to the child that the world is
petty and vindictive. That is why I try to forgive even as the punishment persists. “I said you were going to lose that toy for two days if you continued your behaviour and now it’s gone, even though you’ve said you’re sorry and I’ve forgiven you because you need to feel that sometimes you can not reverse the consequences of you actions.” And I remind him often that I love him and am proud of him because he is my son, irrespective of his behaviour or performance. This is of utmost importance in my opinion.
All of these lessons have been hard ones for me, and I give them to you for free. They apply not only to parenting but to every avenue of life where you have influence, and much like life with children you have influence almost everywhere you go whether you know it or not…