The art of helping our children learn to fly comes down to the art of navigating the dilemmas we are faced with every day as parents.
Here is a recent example in our house. We had been getting ready for a big party, all the family were coming over and we had a 70’s disco planned in the evening. The boys were desperate to go to Newcastle to watch Liverpool play on the Saturday lunchtime.
How do I respond?
There will be many parents saying the answer is ‘no’, they shouldn’t go: the right thing is to be with the family, they can watch it on TV, they need to learn to prioritise, it could ruin the party and they should be here to welcome everyone as they arrive during the day. On the other hand I know the crucial stage Liverpool are at in their season, tickets are like gold dust, it’s an opportunity for them to go together with their cousin and they should be back easily in enough time before the evening. Their huge passion in life is football – it means the world.
So what do I say?
This is an example of the hundreds of ordinary dilemmas we are faced with every day as parents. The choices we need to make which don’t have an easy answer.
I tend to ask myself: What’s the right call here?
This is possibly my first mistake. The minute I think what’s the right call? I start looking at everyone else’s parenting style and try and learn from them, weigh it up and make a judgment. This is where I feel the pressure, because I don’t know the answer – I am not them and they don’t know my children like I do.
So what if I asked myself – What is my call?
This sounds much lighter – it gives me permission to choose from everything I know – which means the call I make will be right for some people and wrong for others. I will still worry if I have made a good call, but I am now not trying to second guess what others think I should do.
However it’s not just my call, it’s their call too. If I take full responsibility for solving this dilemma then I won’t have heard their reasoning and I won’t be able to teach them how to make these calls going forwards.
So what if I changed it to – What is our call?
This question completely changes my approach – I have to let go of some of my responsibility to find solutions or make things happen so that I can listen to my children and ask questions to help them think for themselves. Letting them make decisions about their world so they can learn. It is also an opportunity to plant a tiny seed that tells them I trust their judgement.
It’s not our job as parents to make all the calls on their behalf, it’s our job to think with them not for them.
This is the essence of a coaching approach and I think it makes a huge difference in helping them find their greatness and fly.
Going back to the story, they both went, they had a ball and they were the perfect party hosts when they returned. I still don’t know if it was the right thing to not intervene. If it was the wrong thing to do, I will have learnt and so will have they. Perhaps the point is to realise we don’t know and just keep showing up and doing the best we can! Thankfully this time, it all turned out well. Until the next dilemma..