Marlinie Ramsamy, CEO of FranklinCovey South Africa, discusses ways that parents can teach their children the skills they need to become credible leaders
The choices we make as adults and our attitudes toward life are often a reflection of our upbringing and the values ingrained in us by our parents. From the career path we choose to the person we decide to marry, the home environment sets the tone for what a person will go on to achieve in later years, which is why establishing a strong set of principles that govern your family is so crucial.
Research has shown that children who spend more one-on-one time with parents, receiving positive attention and care in their formative years become more effective leaders and are more likely to achieve success in later years. However, modern-day life presents a new set of challenges for parents to navigate, including TV, console games, tablet computer and mobile phones.
There needs to be a measure of self-discipline in order to help children achieve the goals that are important to their development. Successful athletes and entrepreneurs are great examples of the type of focus and determination it takes to achieve great things – a bit of TV may seem harmless, but mindless hours of television is a time robber that takes the attention away from bigger, more important life goals.
Parents need to take responsibility for their families and the direction each member is heading towards to ensure good leadership qualities are instilled and nurtured in children from a young age. Parents should be constantly asking themselves how they are shaping the moral compass of their children, developing their ethical behaviour and promoting credible leadership. Do their children know what they stand for as a family?
Do they know what they stand for in their personal capacity?
All organisation regardless of size develop a mission statement, yet, the most important institution – the family – very rarely has a mission statement or even a vision statement.
Work on building a structured framework to guide your family, including the following considerations:
- Develop a family vision with your and your children’s dreams in mind. This helps them to learn that they need not be trapped within their circumstances, change and growth start with a vision for your life.
- Create a family mission statementthat details the specific goals that everyone would like to achieve in three, five and 10 years’ time. A company takes great care in formulating mission statements to achieve business objectives, and the same principle applies to families.
- Be more conscious of your children’s needs.This can be difficult when you’re juggling a busy schedule, but understanding the issues affecting your kids and the goals they would like to achieve means that you are in a better position to help them solve problems or maintain focus throughout the year. This encourages confidence in children and the security of knowing that you’re there to coach them through the tough stretches.
- Have a set of values that applies equally to every member of the family.If honesty is a core value in your family, then do not hide important information or lie, especially to your children, as they are more likely to copy your behaviour than heed your words. If you want your kids to buy into the values you’ve set out then you need to be consistent – not only with them, but with yourself.
- Get to know their friends.Speaking to their friends and developing an open relationship with their peers gives you insight into what they are thinking, how they make friends and their decision making capability, and will give you insight into what they value in relationships.
- Keep lines of communication open.Try to create an ‘open door’ environment in the home, where children feel comfortable enough to speak to you about anything that is bothering them. Regardless of how you feel about the situation, don’t interrogate them, let them tell you what they want to. Keep your opinion to yourself.
- Seek first to understand.I’ve seen how ego and pride can cause a complete breakdown in communication between husband and wife, and it has the same impact on your relationship with your children. There’s nothing worse than feeling unheard and dismissed, especially among family.
First, listen to what your child has to say, and give them the opportunity to say everything they would like to, before formulating an opinion. Your response needs to be cognisant not only of your values, but their feelings and the issues they face. It is by modelling good communication that you teach your kids about what it takes to be a leader, because only a good communicator can be a great leader. Be a good listener, listen with your heart, your eyes and your mind.
I’m also mindful that circumstances differ for every parent – someone who struggles to make ends meet might not have the luxury of spending more than an hour or two of quality time a day with their children because they are working multiple jobs or travelling long distances to work. Even so, parents can still use the time they have to steer the family in the right direction and ensure that every member feels valued, loved and protected.
The Seven Habits of Highly Effective families programme offers parents a systematic and holistic way to approach family life, allowing you to build the life that you all want – at work, at school and at home. It guides you on how to show your children that they are a product of their choices, and not their circumstances.