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Leading by Example…. What are our Children Learning from Us?

For a majority of working parents, our kids see that we’re gone for a minimum of 8 hours a day. At the end of that day, we come home to (or pick up) our kids. We go through the daily rituals and go to bed. Our children don’t know much about what we do while we’re gone for the work day. However, there is much for our offspring to learn from us when it comes to our jobs or businesses.

Our parents are our first role models in life… be it good or bad. We learn how to handle situations; how to parent; appreciation for the arts; and… how to work. Whether the work is running a household or building a career (or both), our lessons begin early on in life. Parents set the bar for how their children will view future endeavors, including school.

You’ll hear many people say that they work hard because they’re mother or father was always working to provide for their family. However, some opt for less demanding careers because their parent(s) worked all the time and were never home with the family. There’s a very delicate balance to strike when juggling career and family. This was discussed in an earlier article, Leaving Work at Work.

It’s imperative that we lead by example. The “Do as I say, not as I do” adage is (or should be) a thing of the past when it comes to leadership. This holds true in leading employees or a family. Think about when your kids were starting to speak. There may have been a time when your adorable 2-year-old spewed out some, less than appropriate, language. After the shocked laughter, we realized our kids were paying attention to everything we do and say. It’s time to up our game!  So what else are our kids picking up on?

*Time management: This is one of the most difficult (and important) things to master. We have many responsibilities. There’s never enough time to do all the things we need or want to do. This is where prioritizing comes in. Being a busy parent/business owner, I always keep a calendar on the refrigerator at home so everyone knows what’s happening on any given day. Everything goes on there; work, appointments, dinner with friends, exercise… everything. This goes for the whole family. This is a conversation you may have heard in my home in the past: “Mom, can you drive me to the mall on Friday night?” “Did you check the calendar?” “You’re working.” Question answered. This isn’t to say that work was more important than my child. The lesson was that it’s important to honor our commitments, no matter what the commitment is. Period.

*Money management: I learned very little about money management growing up. Regrettably, this lack of skill made for some financial woes for me, as a young adult. It is my firm belief that this should not only be taught at home, but in schools. Too often, we become adults and have no idea how to budget our money. Add to that lack of knowledge, banks giving young adults credit cards they have no business having, and you have a recipe for disaster. Teach your kids how to balance a checkbook and to live within their means. Help them to understand the value of a dollar and the art of a budget.

*Setting (and missing) goals: Successful people are goal setters. They don’t aimlessly go through life just taking whatever happens to come their way. Our kids need to see us setting goals. Not only should they see it, they should be involved. To take that a step further, have them set their own goals. What grades would he/she like to get this semester? How are they going to achieve said goal? How will they feel if they make the goal (or don’t)? Of course, any one that has had success in their life, has also had failures. How do you handle missing a goal? This speaks volumes and will ultimately set the precedent for your children. We need to handle our defeats with grace. It’s fine to show disappointment, but also show that we get back up and reset our goals. Try, try again.

*People skills: Technology is wonderful. We have cell phones, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and many other “social” tools at our disposal. While it’s convenient and fun, it’s not a replacement for human interaction. All of this “communication” has kept us from truly communicating. Go anywhere and you’ll see a group of people together and they are all on their phones. I spend a lot of time on mine but have made it a rule to put my phone down when I’m out with friends or family, barring an emergency or sharing something with someone. There has always been a rule in my home that there are certain times where technology is banned. I’ll admit that my phone has become an appendage. But, I find that rule to be needed and welcomed.

The other way we set examples for people skills is in how we talk to others, particularly in front of the children. Demonstrating respect and patience, kindness and understanding are critical parts to child rearing. This includes when we’re speaking to employees, co-workers, and customers. They learn invaluable lessons that will set them apart in the world as they grow up.

*Making a life, not a living: Sadly, many people do not jump out of bed, excited to start their day. Let’s face it, some of us have either had or have jobs we’ve been less than passionate about. Ultimately, we’d all love to love what we do. Be that as it may, teaching the next generation that our work doesn’t define us is a significant practice. We can find joy in other areas of our life. In the case that you love your work (and even if you don’t) remember and convey that it is a vessel to enjoy the many things life has to offer us.

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