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Teach Your Parents Well

Five insights from observing children that can be applied to your career.

“To bring up a child in the way he should go, travel that way yourself once in a while.” – Josh Billings, 19th century American humorist

Three years ago, I had the pleasure of joining the millions of people before me by becoming the proud parent of two boys (yes, twin boys). Since, I’m an overachiever, I decided to add a third to my brood a year ago by welcoming a baby girl and incorporating the term “three under three” into my regular vocabulary. I can now state with all certainty that all the clichés regarding children are true: a baby changes your life forever, and three? Fugetaboutit.

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young sang that we need to teach our children well, but, as many parents can attest to, the real lessons come from our children. This has not been lost on me and the lessons have become part of how I view my career. Not only am I accountable to my employer and myself, but my actions will be interpreted by children, if not today, then someday, and I want to make sure I’m setting the right example and precedent for them.

The lessons my children have taught me can be broken down in two parts: the lessons they have taught be by simply being children (aka, the things we forget as we grow older) and the lessons I have learned by being their parent (aka, the things we someday come to appreciate about our own parents). Since my children are “three under three,” I’ll be sticking to truisms that apply to this age group, but I invite you to please add your insights as they relate to the children in your lives as well.

Insights From Observing Children

  • Step into someone else’s shoes. One of my favorite quotes on parenting comes from author Lane Olinghouse: “The quickest way for a parent to get a child’s attention is to sit down and look comfortable.” One of the most important things we can do for our children is to form a connection with them; we form connections by being able to see the world from their perspective. The people we work with want to be understood as well. If you’re a manager, do you recall what it was like starting out?
  • Time-outs are for adults. Prior to becoming a parent, I watched “SuperNanny” regularly and swore that my imaginary kids would be perfect angels. Super Nanny is known for her time-out method, which includes giving children warnings for bad behavior and then carrying the punishment (the time-out) through if they commit the offense again. The time-out removes them from the situation and places them in a quiet spot where they sit alone and can contemplate their wrongdoing. The amount of time they sit out is a minute for each year of their life. I’m sure Super Nanny is on to something, but when I’ve reached my boiling point with my kids, before I resort to giving them a time-out, I take one myself. It’s usually me that needs the time-out to assess the situation and take a breather. The next time you’ve reached a boiling point at work and are preparing to unravel, take a break: one minute per age, in a quiet place where you can recharge.
  • Celebrate the small accomplishments. When my boys were 18 months old, they would walk over to our piano and in perfect harmony open the cover, drum the keys with their fists, and then turn to us for applause (we would oblige each time). They would then applaud and clap as well. To them, this coordination was a major achievement; not only were they learning to work together, but they were also learning that their actions had a cause and effect. As professionals, we often don’t recognize our small achievements and wait for those larger moments. Your career is a culmination of small steps and celebrations that have brought you to where you are today.
  • Accept feedback – particularly if you’re being called a “poopy head.” Becoming a parent has been a very humbling experience. I’m learning on the job and, admit, I’ve made mistakes along the way. My kids are more than happy to inform me of my progress, or my lack of. I believe feedback is critical in relationships and development, but it needs to be delivered with love and compassion. Be open and give feedback, but make sure it comes from a good place.
  • Patience. Enough said.

What have you learned from the children in your life that you have applied to your career?

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