Parenthood

In my coaching practice, I work with clients to help them unearth their self-limiting beliefs – the unconscious thought processes that they have now (and have typically grown up with), that no longer serve them.

Then, I got to thinking about the typical recurring issues that come up within these sessions, and how we might manage our parenting styles to equip our kids now, in a positive way, to be better prepared for life and later, the world of work.

1. Developing Empathy

Kids typically are naturally empathic but in our wish to calm them and reassure them, we often shush away their worries for others. Quite often, as they grow up in our societies of individualised focus, they can lose this sense of empathy for others, or certainly diminish it. In work, one of the greatest ways of mending broken relationships and calming misunderstandings is to develop this sense of empathy again. When parenting, we might give due consideration to this, and rather than seek to protect our kids from feeling bad for others, we might instead allow them to feel these feelings, and teach them how to cope with both positive and negative emotions. When faced with challenges in work, not only will they have greater emotional self-awareness, thereby allowing them to cope better themselves, but they will also have greater emotional awareness of how others might be feeling, building empathy and more positive relationships longer term.

2. Problem stating

Kids state problems. ALL. DAY. LONG. “I’m thirsty”. “Johnny won’t share”. “I don’t want to”. Rarely do they state the solution. Yet we know, in the wider world and especially in the world of work, people advance when they can solve problems and eradicate issues, plus they’re far easier to be around! So, start getting your kids to reframe their demands. “I’m thirsty” becomes “Can you get me a drink of water please?”. “Johnny won’t share” becomes, "Can you help me and Johnny to manage our play time better?” and “I don’t want to” becomes “I don’t want to because I’m tired and I’d rather read a story”. If kids start taking ownership for building solutions themselves from an early age, when they reach adulthood and the world of work, this will be an automatic and competent response mechanism for them. And with this in their toolkit they will both cope better with day to day stressors themselves, as well as standing out from colleagues who may be still stuck in the problem stating phase!

3. Physical Flexibility

Ever marveled at your child skipping and bouncing along beside you as you struggle to keep up? I mean, why walk when you can skip, right? This sense of bounce and energy can often become depleted in adulthood, as we move to sedentary jobs, and in more extreme cases begin to suffer stress and burnout.

Cultivating this love of being physically active is another good idea for us as parents. Studies show that people who are physically fit and healthy have better endurance, resilience and fewer sick days... and this is something all employers want more of. So as we parent our children, it’s beneficial to teach them how to keep themselves healthy – what food choices work best for them, how they feel after TV or after a fun run around in the park. Setting these patterns early in life will stand to them well into adulthood, giving them endurance to follow their passions in their work and wider lives.

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4. Relationships

Kids are open to relationships. They make friends at nearly every outing and they tend to be open and inclusive with others – especially in their younger years. Yet faulty relationships are one of the Top 5 issues I encounter in my work as an Organisational Psychologist and Coach.

The issues come in various guises, but at the core will very often be a faulty relationship. So what goes wrong in the intervening years between childhood and adulthood? In my view people tend not to learn how to be interdependent in their relationships. They can be transactional – I’ll do this for you, if you do this for me – but rarely do we as a society teach interdependence. To achieve this, we must first take responsibility for ourselves, and our choices – to own who we are essentially. Only from that point can we choose to engage in a mutually beneficial way, with another person who is also operating from the same premise. This, in my view, is one of the greatest challenges in parenting today, yet one of the skills that will benefit our children the most in their futures.

5. Fun

We all have a natural and innate sense of fun. It’s part of the human condition and it’s something we are all born with. Kids laugh and joke and see the fun in most things. Everything can be a game. Yet this isn’t always the case for us adults – as we struggle to get them out the door to school!

So what happened? It seems to me that a combination of (perhaps well-meaning) authority figures and some of life’s setbacks can stamp out this sense of fun along the way. You have to learn to sit down and listen in school. You need to study hard… to get a good job… to earn money. You may have suffered a key personal loss.

However it happens, it seems to me that taking on this seriousness of life has caused many of my clients to veer into career paths for the wrong reasons. SO many of my clients didn’t follow their passion, their sense of fun, into their career. They went for a safer option, or the family business. Oftentimes something they hate – and the sense of fun has been replaced by a sense of panic and loathing and resentment. I often think the hardest thing can be figuring out what we want to do with our careers. Being brave enough to follow your passion is a real gift – and one we can pass onto our children. If you’re good at what you do and passionate about it, you’ll never work a day in your life. Your life will be filled with a sense of fun and you will be productive and fulfilled for longer.

Isn’t this a message worth encouraging in our little ones?

Our resident Organisational Psychologist, Coach and mum, Leisha McGrath is here to answer your burning questions on returning to work from maternity leave and how to achieve a healthy work/life balance.

Do you have a question for Leisha McGrath? Send us an email in confidence to editorial@herfamily.ie or check out Leisha's website, lma.ie for more info.

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parenting, confidence, resilience, kids confidence