Leadership is a quality we notice and admire when we see it. So what makes someone a good leader? Why do we want to follow some people, and not others? There are some things positive leaders have in common. They make us feel safe, they know how to champion our talents. They inspire us to take action rather than telling us what to do.
Being lone parents’ means we have to lead our families. There isn’t a second opinion to be asked for or someone to defer to when the going gets tough. As scary as this can be sometimes, it is also a testimony to how important we are for our children. Becoming that inspirational, positive leader in our own homes gives our children the great things good leadership brings. They feel safe, they feel confident. They feel able to express and develop their talents and contribute to the family.
Leadership isn’t magic. We aren’t born with it, but we can learn how to develop a sense of being in control (without being controlling). There’s lots of ways to explore your own leadership style. Simply speaking, leadership comes down to how you choose to BE rather than what you choose to DO.
One of the biggest challenges lone parents face with small children is allowing and encouraging our kids to express themselves, while bringing loving boundaries around how they behave. My kids understand that Kindness is a Very Big Thing. In fact, it’s our number one family value. The one that I really want them to carry in their hearts when they journey out of my home into the big wide world.
So as their parent, and the person who sets their limits and boundaries, I have to BE kind. It’s not enough to tell them to be kind, I need to show them how. Especially when they are rude, or get physical with each other, or assert themselves out of fear or anger. If I am not kind to them in those moments, our family value is just a word. I understand that values are caught, not taught. They are modelled and absorbed rather than learned.
I must be kind when I address challenging behaviour. Don’t mistake this for doing nothing! When one of them is aggressive or upset the kind response is to help them feel safe, give them the confidence to express what has made them cross, upset or angry. Let them vent their frustration somewhere I can contain it, acknowledge it and validate it – then explain to them (once the storm has passed) why it’s not ok to treat other people unkindly, even though they have big feelings to express. In those moments, I am showing them what patience, kindness and authenticity looks like.
It’s hard work. It’s tiring. I’m not going to gloss over the resources you may have to draw upon to make this happen when you are having big feelings of your own. But it’s worth it. When you live your values and BE the person you want your children to grow into becoming, what you DO in those moments flows from who you are. Which ultimately will shape the family you all have.