Last week I had my first ride alone with my son. We’ve been mountain biking as a family for a long time, yet I’d never gone out on the trails with the kids without my husband. Maybe it was confidence or simple lack of opportunity since we’re always together, but it was a moment that I’ll cherish. As simple as it was.
When we set out for the mountain bike ride in our ‘backyard’ as we call the park behind our house, I let my son lead. And then he started to give me pointers on how to ride my bike.
It occurred to me that his version of leading was telling people what to do.
Is this something I’ve modeled? Probably. It’s likely what most adults in his world do as leaders. They tell kids what to do.
Instinctively, and through lots of reading, I know that great leaders listen, observe, and ask questions. They make decisions based on that information. It’s not a telling what needs to be done, but rather a way to connect and bring everyone along. As much as I try to do that at home, it doesn’t always happen.
I assured my son that I didn’t need pointers, that I’d been riding longer than he (but not by much), and that as a leader, he got to make the decisions on trails. He got to choose the path.
As I thought about this more, it occured to me that maybe I need to be a better leader with my boys. It’s very easy for me to slip into the role of a walking to-do list. It seems at every moment I am asking or telling my boys to do something productive. (Or even not productive, but still away from the screens. It’s still telling them to stop or start something.)
How can I listen and facilitate rather than list off the tasks?
Truthfully, I’ve got no freaking clue.
It’s a fine line, this parenting, between leniency and harshness. Fostering independence and watching your children turn to sloths right in front of your eyes.
I’m glad I’ve become a mom who does things with her kids. Instead of watching from the sidelines, I run with them, bike with them, and take walks with them. I feel like this gives us time to chat in an environment where I’m not telling them what to do. We are simply together, having fun.
It’s awesome when it’s the whole family too. Yet I secretly enjoy the one on one time. We don’t get too much of it, and it’s like gold.
It’s the space where I get to listen – I allow myself to slow down and not worry about the getting things done part of life. (I am easily lost in that. It’s a distraction, and there is literally always something one could be doing.)
That’s a balance too, however, right? How much time do you have togheter? Do you have time apart? What’s the right balance? And is there a perfect formula? I don’t think so. There’s no perfect forumla for any of this, and that’s what makes it hard. But it also makes it a puzzle to solve. Continually. As you and your child and the circumstances are always changing.
There’s no perfect forumla for any of this, and that’s what makes it hard.
If we roll with the changes instead of sticking to one right way – or what we think life should be like – then it feels like life gets easier. We still have days, of course. (You know the ones.) But if we can allow for adjustments and listen to what’s needed in the moment, then it’s easier to trust the balance is right.
I am quite happy to let my boys go off with their dad or with friends as well. I don’t need to be involved in everything, but I cherish the time alone. It’s easier to listen when it’s just two of us together. I need to get better at listening and oberving when we’re all together too. The dynamics shift.
How is the balance of listening and telling in your house? How do you lead them toward good habits, healthy boundaries, and productive choices without the laundry list of to-do’s?
Inquiring minds want to know.