Monday, February 16, 2009

Leadership in Your Home

Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other.—Abraham Lincoln

"I da boss of myself," my four-year-old son declared.

"I'm your boss, Kyle."

"Who is your boss?"


End of conversation.

Was Kyle thinking what Lisa Simpson said, "I'm no theologian. All I know is he's [God's] more powerful than Mom and Dad put together."?

Sometimes my sons think I'm a candidate for President of our home. They'd prefer that I say, "What do you want? Okay, I can do that."

Other times, they challenge whether I'm tough enough to be the Commander in chief.

I am the President of our home and I have to make wise decisions that are unpopular with my constituents and political rivals—my sons.

Leadership Qualities of a Commander in Chief

Historian and author of Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, Doris Kearns Goodwin outlines the powerful personal qualities that solo parents need to govern our homes successfully.

Withstand Adversity: Solo parents are survivors, which inspires a quiet, tough self-confidence. Handling setbacks and tragedies—not success—reveals our character.

Diverse Perspectives: I went from living in a beautiful middle-class neighborhood and running with wealthy and middle-class friends to living side-by-side with individuals familiar with poverty. Divorce instantly down-classed our social status, but upped our ability to comfort others. If we truly believe that everyone is valuable to God, then we welcome individuals who are different into our hearts and lives.

I shared my values with my children, but I did not want to raise "yes" men. I exposed them to different views to encourage them to think. It's important to teach the ability to respect and listen to others, even if they disagree with our family's values.

Loyalty: One of my bosses enjoyed taking public credit for our team's successes. Over time, his ability to inspire loyalty dissipated. When faced with the challenges of solo parenting, it's important create a sense of shared purpose and acknowledge our children's successes—no matter how small.

Admit Mistakes: Aristotle said, "To err is human; to not learn from one's mistakes is stupidity." Each time I hurt my sons' feelings or yelled at them because I was stressed, I asked, "I'm sorry. Will you forgive me?"

Manage Emotions: All solo parents experience feelings of anger or sadness. I hoped my sons would see that I was changing for the better and releasing grudges.

Define Goals: My sons were not allowed to get away with saying these words, "I can't." and "I don't know." I set forth a vision for my children that would be realized when they became adults. I led our family by reinforcing our family motto: I'll try.

Relax: For years, I felt burned out. Finding humor in the ridiculousness of my situation released stress. Often I escaped to the bathroom. While the boys fought like dogs, I relaxed in the bath with hot tea, chocolate and reading materials. My twenty-something, able-to-live-well-within-his-budget boss reviewed my budget and then reprimanded me for my one luxury—one magazine subscription. Money-wise I couldn't justify it. He failed to understand it was a mental health issue. That magazine re-filled my depleted emotional well.

Remember, you are not a candidate; be the leader of your home. I run my leadership campaign on a high level. I live the life that I want my children to model as adults.

Solo parents have the most powerful job on the planet—to influence our children.

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