Parenting as a form of leadership: part 1

by Gillian Breckell


No matter which words we use or how we try to verbally sculpt our small humans, at the end of the day, children are small mirror images, parroting and mimicking both our best and our worst with their own (sometimes slightly diabolical) individual twist.


Take yesterday, for example, when I asked my preschooler an innocuous question once too often for her liking.


“Are you sure you don’t want the banana?”


“No,” she huffed.  “I said ‘no’ already, and now I’ve had enough, alright?  Look at me… I said no, ok?!”


“Ok,” I said, uncertain whether I should feel deflated or amused at the near perfect parody of myself. She ignored me and carried on simultaneously jumping on the couch and trying to build a Duplo tower.


“Hey kiddo,” I said.  “We haven’t discussed this since you were four months old and I was writing my thesis, and your vocabulary is much broader now.  Back then I suggested that parenting is a form of leadership.  No matter what you do to provoke or worry or exhaust me, I need to provide you with a stable leadership.  Don’t jump so close to the edge please.”


I waggled the banana skin at her.


“Go put this in the bin please.”


She took a flying leap off the sofa, and rumbling like an airplane, swooped in to take the banana skin.  I heard the thundering footsteps (who on earth ever thought small feet “patter”?!) and the clang of the rubbish bin lid shutting.


“See?” I said as she came back to the living room and started spinning in circles.  “I told you what to do, and you did it.  Many people consider that leadership.  But leadership is far more that dictating what should be done and expecting action to be taken.  Leadership is influencing, motivating, and being a role model.  It is working with unique individuals in unique situations, and helping them to be the best they can be whilst achieving a common goal.”


I watched her hop across to the floor to the baby and fall down beside him.  Her little fingers roamed over his face, and I redirected her before she could hold his nose again.


“And parenting isn’t too much different,” I continued.


“In fact, there are many things I can take from leadership which apply to parenting.  It has the added benefit of setting a foundation for good future leadership, if you decide to take on a leadership role one day.  Would you like to be a leader?”




She smiled and curled her little hands into claws.


“No.  I’m a dinosaur.”


Fair enough.  Until next time then.


Gillian is a ShanghaiMama with a Masters degree in Leadership and an interest in leadership development in young people.  She loves to research and she can be identified by the yoga pants which are permanently fluffy from sitting on the floor with her Kiwi-Danish kids (a Horse preschooler and a Monkey baby).