Making it Work

S4K delves deeper in our quest for the holy grail of a happy work and home life.

Can the experience you gain in the workplace help you become a better parent? Reformed self-confessed Tiger Dad, parenting and leadership expert, Nadim Saad believes that family life can be dramatically improved by applying the same relationship building techniques with our kids that we use with our colleagues. S4K delves deeper in our quest for the holy grail of a happy work and home life…

Transferable Skills

Most people think of leaders as belonging to the corporate world and don’t associate being a leader with being a parent. However, when we look at what it means to be a leader in its broadest sense, it’s clear that parenting and leadership are very closely linked. The primary thing that they have in common is that both parents and leaders work towards a specific outcome through the leadership of people. And many of the skills that we use in the workplace (e.g. using effective communication, preventing/dealing with conflict etc.) can be used to great effect to make family life more harmonious and enjoyable. So it’s clear that there are far more parallels between our work lives and our family lives than most people realise, as the following examples demonstrate:

1. Planning Ahead
As working parents, we often struggle to get our children out of the house on time in the morning or get them into bed because we want to see as much of them as possible. A great way to reduce the stress is to create a routine with your child (from three years and upwards). Allowing them to participate in this will enable you to make the routine the ‘boss’ rather than you. It’s also very effective to ‘pre-agree’ with children how you’d like them to behave in certain situations, such as when you go to the supermarket or when you visit friends and relatives. By simply reminding them what you agreed upon makes it a lot easier for them to redirect their behaviour, rather than lecture them ‘in the heat of the moment’.

2. Leading By Example
As parents, we are important role models to our children. We can motivate and inspire them, we can show them how to be more respectful, more grateful, more positive, etc. by modelling these attributes.

3. Effective Communication
Research shows that parents of toddlers give 34 orders per hour on average! This creates opposition and power struggles. Instead of giving so many orders, which are quite demotivating, share the control on your terms by offering limited choices that suit you (e.g. “Would you rather leave the park now or in five minutes?”) and asking more questions (e.g. “What are you supposed to do before going to bed?” instead of “You haven’t brushed your teeth yet, why do I always have to be behind your back!”).

4. Team Meetings
Holding regular family meetings is key to building and maintaining a strong connection with children and to redirecting any behaviour that we might disapprove of. It’s an opportunity for the family to set goals and clarify expectations of one another, which helps to prevent future conflict and power struggles. It’s also a great way of making sure that all family members feel a sense of belonging and responsibility towards one another, and it provides an invaluable opportunity for each person to have their thoughts heard and their feelings acknowledged. This in itself is incredibly powerful as it helps to create a sense of family unity and togetherness and a sense of common purpose.

5. Letting Go of the Gender Stereotypes
To get rid of the typical stereotypes that dads are not as good as mums at taking care of their kids, be encouraging when your boys want to help around the house, and teach them necessary practical housekeeping skills, just as you would teach your girls. Don’t assign typical gender chores to your kids – for example: girls do the dishes, and boys take out the trash. Mix it up instead. Let boys be whoever they are supposed to be, whoever they were meant to be, and whoever they want to be.

Common Parenting Challenges 

Through our experience of running parenting courses and workshops with thousands of working parents, and responding to the hundreds of thousands of queries on our Best of Parenting app, we have found that most parents (including ourselves!) invariably share the same struggles of:

Trying to get kids out of the house in the morning on time – or going to bed – without having to resort to shouting, threatening or rewarding.

Experiencing a general lack of cooperation from children and dealing with their amazing capacity to ignore what we’re telling them.

Trying to cope with kids whining, complaining and having tantrums.

Having arguments over food, homework and many other things.

Our children being rude, including back-chatting and arguing.

Managing sibling rivalry and children competing for parental attention.

For working parents, because they don’t always get to spend as much time with their children as they would like, they often feel under even more pressure to make sure that the time that they do get to spend with their children really ‘counts’. So when this precious time is wasted in conflict and power struggles with their children, working parents can find common parenting challenges even more difficult to cope with.

Having It All

Leading thinkers now explain that the concept of work-life balance is actually misleading because it is based on the idea that ‘work’ competes with ‘life’. Experts now prefer to talk about the importance of achieving better ‘work-life harmony’ or ‘work-life integration’. So our goal should be to create harmony between work and life instead of thinking only in terms of trade-offs. In ‘The Working Parents’ Guide’, we explore how working parents can utilise the skills that they use in the workplace to make life more harmonious at home. So there are far more parallels between work and family life than the majority of people realise, and in understanding these parallels, our professional and personal lives can actually complement one another.

Unfortunately, there aren’t yet enough policies to make working parents’ lives easier. We hear plenty of examples of parents who have had difficult bosses who did not seem to understand the need for a bit of flexibility when you are a parent. However, when some of these bosses became parents themselves, their attitude immediately changed and they became a lot more understanding, for obvious reasons! Instead of having to go through this, managers should be trained to understand the needs of working parents and made to realise that working parents can often be more effective because they learn valuable skills as a parent that can be useful in the workplace.

Working parents spend far too much time feeling guilty, which can cause us to become too indulgent for the sake of ‘making up’ for our absence. If we end up not setting enough boundaries and being too lenient, it is likely to create a sense of entitlement from children and a lack of ability to deal with frustration and upset, which are key to resilience. Equally, being too authoritarian is not healthy either, as children end up obeying out of fear and it doesn’t make children responsible. We’re actually seeing a rise of ‘uncertain’ parents, i.e. parents who tend to oscillate between being quite lenient to being very harsh and authoritarian for a couple of key reasons:

The disappearance of the patriarchal and submissiveness model of the last century, partly because of the evolution of the role of women.

There are so many conflicting theories out there and the media tend to focus on the ‘controversial’ theories rather than the more balanced ones, so few people know who to trust.

The reality of what is best is usually more ‘in the middle’ and depends on one’s children and one’s parenting style (as it’s very difficult to change one’s parenting style and trying to be strict when you are naturally inclined to be lenient and vice versa may have negative consequences). I am a prime example of this: a few years ago, my wife was trying to convince me to read parenting books as we totally disagreed on how to parent (which by the way happens to more than 70 per cent of the thousands of parents we interviewed!). And my answer would invariably be: “There are so many conflicting theories out there and the book you’re giving me clearly advocates ‘gentle parenting’, but there is nothing to demonstrate that this is the best way to parent. Why don’t you give me an executive summary of the book and show me how, and if it works, and then I’ll be willing to listen”. And that’s what she ended up doing, which transformed our lives.

Instead of wanting to be ‘the perfect parent’, focus on the important things. Use some of the techniques described here and try to spend some ‘special time’ with your child one-on-one. This can be as little as 10 minutes a day, or for older children around 30 minutes a week. The important thing is that you make a point of saying to your child that this is ‘your special time’ together and then give them a limited choice of what they’d like to do (e.g. “Would you prefer to go to the park or the cinema?”).

Father-of-three Nadim is the co-author of the highly acclaimed Kids Don’t Come With A Manual, as well as four other books. A serial entrepreneur, he regularly speaks on parenting themes within large corporations and founded Best of Parenting with his wife Carole, a Montessori-trained teacher and relationship coach.

‘The Working Parents’ Guide: To raising happy and confident children by Nadim Saad is available now to buy on Amazon RRP £11.99 providing fast, practical advice tailored for busy working parents who want to achieve a balanced approach to parenting.

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