The key changes in my life have been triggered by a single event that stood out in my mind. My daughter kicking me in the throat was a life changing event. The kick was a clear indication that my approach to parenting needed to change.
In my professional life, I evaluate myself on a simple criteria – am I being effective at helping people achieve their goals. As a negotiator, I’ve trained myself to stay focused on my desired outcome, rather than any emotional responses.
As a parent, the “kick” triggered two realizations. First, I was being ineffective. Second, I needed to focus on my desired outcome.
How’d I get kicked?
I was tired, my wife was tired and my daughter was tired. All that fatigue was a recipe for disaster when we gave some physical encouragement for Lex to brush her teeth.
It became clear to me that if I’m going to be an effective parent then I need to take responsibility for not being tired. So the first change was cutting down my physical fatigue (exercise & training) and putting the pieces in place to reduce my mental fatigue (business). This change is hard for two main reasons:
- I have a core belief that I need to train two hours every day for personal sanity and vanity
- In my business, I feel obligated to my team
As it turns out, the beliefs may not be based on reality. My body is holding out pretty well and I’m fortunate to work with great people.
The second change was the most difficult. Acknowledging my role in creating my daughter’s behaviour. My sentimental side wants my three-year old daughter to act a well-adjusted 25-year old – stable, loving, calm, rational, loyal, supportive.
Reading that sentence, it’s obvious that a three-year old is never going to act like at 25-year old. It is not obvious to my emotional, sentimental side! When I hear the internal dialogue, “why can you just…” then I know that I’ve fallen into a mental trap.
So how can I modify my behaviour to get a more effective result for my daugher, my wife and my myself?
I asked my friends. The act of asking, and a couple good nights sleep, made me feel better. That’s worth repeating – ask for advice in difficult situations – the act of seeking help is comforting.
Some of the tips were more helpful than others. At one end of the spectrum:
- Break their spirit early
- Two cans of Guinness per night
- You get what you deserve
- Do your best to stay married
- Try not to get fat
At the other:
- Treat it like investing – manage for the long term
- Create a love of books – reading is a valuable skill and engages their minds
- She might forget if you blow your stack but you won’t – act as if she’s going to remember every-single-thing you do
The single most useful piece of advice was: split the world in two with Lexi-decisions and Daddy-decisions. When something is a Daddy-decision be prepared to withstand whatever it takes to follow through. When something is a Lexi-decision, let her make the call and let it roll.
Be clear, be consistent, don’t offer choices when none exist. When combined with compassionate love, it’s an effective strategy.
Simple, not easy.