Chris Efessiou, author of “CDO Chief Daddy Officer: The Business of Fatherhood,” says getting through the day-to-day elements of raising a teenager can be an art form in itself.
What types of business skills work in raising an adolescent?
Create a plan. Decide what parent you want to be and what you are willing to sacrifice to become that parent. Being professionally ambitious and being a loving and emotionally available parent are not mutually exclusive, because one costs the other absolutely nothing. Always anticipate to make adjustments. Remember that your plan will serve as a starting point, not an end in itself. It should be your floor, not your ceiling. Start with your desired endpoint — your goals— and work backward. How will you shape your child into the adult you want him to be? How will you take advantage of the opportunities to guide her development while allowing her to grow into her own person? How, then, can you measure a child’s progress? Part of our job as parents is to create a yardstick or standard that can measure our children’s performance against their abilities, not our own fantasies. The yardstick must also measure character and behavior — self-respect, respect and concern for others, generosity — calibrated by what we consider moral, ethical and just.
Analyze the Gap • If I expect my daughter to make her bed every morning, I must tell her I expect this. I must then make sure she knows how to do it, showing her if necessary. If I then discover that she is only making her bed two days out of the week, and I want it made every morning, I need to decide what it will take to make up the gap. Would it be more effective to punish her for failing to do what I ask or to provide a goal incentive if she does it for an agreed period of time? It takes three weeks to make a habit. This is gap analysis in parenting.
Think ahead • Parenting, like business, is a game of chess not checkers. Anticipate the situation and strategize how you want to handle it. Here you must anticipate not only their first question and your answer to it, but the follow-up question and your reply to that. Listen. Observe body language. Be decisive. They can speak, you must give them a voice, but you are the boss/parent. You make the final decision.
Lead • Model the desired behavior by your behavior. When you are wrong, admit it. As mentors to our children, we need to decide which values and skills are most important to us. If we want our children to be respectful and polite, we need to begin to monitor those behaviors early in their development. The same goes for being hardworking, responsible and kind. We must keep in mind how children learn. They learn by watching us, not just listening to us. The way you react is how your child will learn to react.
How does a parent stay in control?
You must always be ready to stand behind your admonitions. We will only achieve our behavior goals with our children if standards are consistently enforced. If whining isn’t OK this morning but is overlooked in the afternoon, we are sending mixed signals to our kids. The same is true of any work policy. If the accounting department doesn’t consistently review expenditures on travel, no one will take the guidelines seriously. If a teenager gets yelled at for missing curfew one weekend and has it overlooked the next, she will not realistically know what is expected of her, no matter what the rules are. Allow your children to live their own life based on their own wants and desires, always checked by you for adherence to your values, and above all be loving, clear and consistent.
What do you mean by looking into the mirror?
Parenting is all about self awareness and consistency because your credibility will only be as strong as your honest view of your own personality and the evenness of your behavior. You must know Who You Are. You have to understand what motivates you and how you respond, or risk responding irrationally, which will undermine your authority both at home and at work. You must know the kind of person you are. Specifically, what irritates you most and why? Children are experts at pushing our buttons. It is so easy to overreact to their normal antics, and when we do, we lose our children’s respect and our ability to manage them. Of course, the same is true at work. A boss whose temper is out of control may command fear but never true respect. The key to staying in control of our responses is to understand what irritates us more than it should. There are plenty of behaviors that warrant a strong reaction from parents. A child who runs out into the street, steals something from a store, or bites a classmate is demonstrating serious lapses in judgment. Our job is to communicate to the child that his specific behavior is not the way to get what he wants. So yes, if you’ve ever “lost it” for good reason, do not fret. You just do not want an uncontrolled behavior to be your parenting Modus Operandi.
Chris Efessiou, author