I might be treading on slippery ground with this topic as I am not a mother nor a full-time “+mum”. First up : parenting is bloody hard work! So respect to all parents out there for your relentless dedication, care and support, for being “always on” 24/7.
Just spent 2 weeks with the kids and must admit I find their behaviours fascinating. How they love to explore, discover new things, no matter how scared they initially are of the unknown. Not talking big things here. Just the fact that they dived into the large waves of the Atlantic Ocean, for instance, after trying to persuade them to do so for a couple of days, was so exhilarating and fulfilling to watch.
Being a facilitator of exploration is a role I love taking to up and I am totally at ease with. My parents did the same for me and I am eternally grateful to them for the fantastic experiences they have given me. I totally believe that exploration and discovery is the route to growth which is why it is one of my core beliefs as explained in Rock Soul.
What I wasn’t quite as prepared for, was their stubborn and deliberate pushing the boundaries of authority. Especially the 4-year-old put me to test! He is an extremely lovable chappie, very cheeky and always up for a good laugh. Just my kinda guy! But at certain occasions and always when dad wasn’t around, his “evil-twin” would appear. Simple daily routines, such as finishing a meal, would be an opportunity to assert his authority over me. He would refuse doing whatever I asked him, looking at me in a manner that couldn’t be mis-interpreted : he was defying me and testing me to see how quickly I would capitulate.
Now I am certainly not a push-over so not giving in to him isn’t the difficulty. The challenge lies in the fact that I need to make sure I don’t lose my cool and get frustrated. Or choose the easy option of non-confrontation and give in and ignore him. Equally, him testing me, makes me question my own actions: Am I too strict? Too demanding? One thing I have certainly learned is that parenting is a constant balancing act between wanting the best for your child, wanting to please them and get their affirmation, wanting to push them and excel.
As I am reflecting on how best to handle the little one, I am thinking back to my own experiences of running teams and can’t help but think both are fundamentally not that different. You might think I am oversimplifying things, being naive…maybe…but at the end of the day, it’s all about people, our motivations, our drivers, our need for recognition, our fears and trepidations, our sense of achievement when overcoming hurdles and treading new ground. I don’t think I am alone in this line of thinking.
A book I cannot recommend highly enough is GRIT, The Power of Passion & Perseverance, by Angela Duckworth, which explores what it really takes to be successful.
Her scientific research also looks at parenting styles in support of parenting for GRIT, whereby, in summary, GRIT is being defined as follows : talent x effort = skill; skill x effort = achievement.
She defines 4 styles of parenting:
- Permissive Parenting = undemanding + supportive
- Neglectful Parenting = unsupportive + undemanding
- Authoritarian Parenting = demanding + unsupportive
- Wise Parenting = supportive + demanding
According to Duckworth’s research “Wise Parenting”, being supportive yet demanding, lends itself best to teach kids to be gritty.
- Wise parents are very warm and kind while still having high standards. They praise tenacity and teach their children they must work hard and go through adversity to find success. Frustration and confusion is all part of the journey. In other words, failure is to be expected and viewed as a requirement in order to grow and learn.
- Wise parents teach there is a difference between self-control and grit. Self-control is resisting temptations in the short term, while grit is the stick-to-itness to get things done over the long haul. They have high expectations and believe their children can meet them.
- One important aspect that sets Wise parents apart from the Authoritarian ones is warmth. Duckworth says, “It’s a common misunderstanding to think of “tough love” as a carefully struck balance between affection and respect on the one hand, and firmly enforced exceptions on the other.” Why can’t tough love encompass both? Give children limits, and at the same time show love and respect.
To me, the approach taken by “wise parents” doesn’t seem to be that different from that of “wise leaders” and Duckworth’s research certainly seems to confirm that the elements for teaching grit and ultimately becoming gritty are equally applicable to other contexts such as coaching sports teams or business teams.
As I am working my way through the mental battle with the little one, I am taking comfort and inspiration from Duckworth’s research…. then finally the little one comes up to me, gives me an unprompted hug and apologises for his latest mishap…I feel encouraged…I might be getting something right after all…