Michael Grose asked:
As an avid football supporter I have been intrigued by the recent debacle with a local football team that saw two players suspended by the club until the end of the season.
The two players were involved in a car accident following a drinking bout. They then lied about the nature of their involvement, which severely embarrassed the club, leading to their suspension.
As this is not the first time a player from this team has been in strife, the whole culture that exists within the club is currently being questioned.
Poor behaviour will generally be endemic unless the culture of the group is changed.
The general consensus is that players’ poor off-field behaviour won’t change until the club culture changes. The leadership group needs to work hard to create a culture that encourages the right behaviours.
The same principle applies to families.
When parents focus on promoting the right culture within their family then children’s behaviour will generally fall into line with that culture.
This requires parents to be effective leaders of the family rather than just be competent managers of children’s behaviour.
What type of culture should we be focusing on?
There is no question that the family culture that has the best outcomes for kids is one that promotes the following values:
(1) Shared responsibility: As a family you share decisions, responsibilities, joys and problems.
(2) Equality: Parents and children have equal rights to be heard and to influence others.
(3) Mutual respect: We treat each other fairly and respectfully. This is shown when we listen to each other, don’t use pit downs and take an interest in each other.
(4) Self-discipline: This is about personal responsibility. Parents teach kids respect for order, control their impulses, regulate their behaviour within limits and develop an appreciation for the rights of others.
(5) Cooperation: Cooperation is a group-oriented notion and is a two-way thing where children consider how their behaviour impacts on others. Cooperation is won not coerced or bought.
The challenge for parents, of course, is that the playing field is not an easy one. You are working with children who wear L plates when it comes to getting on with each other. They are not mini-adults. They are kids!
But this give parents a distinct advantage. In the first seven or eight years of life kids are like sponges soaking up the predominant values and messages from the significant adults in their lives.
So making the most of these opportunity years is the key. The messages kids receive get quite mixed as they move toward adolescence.
The most appropriate parenting style to positively impact on family culture is the authoritative leadership style. This style typically involves three broad aspects:
(1) Relationship-building and encouragement
(2) Limit-setting and accountability
(3) Involving kids in the family enterprise
The third aspect in this list is perhaps the most challenging for most modern parents. Giving kids a voice in the family is a good management principal as kids are more likely to stick to decisions that they have had a say in making.
But how do parents make this happen?
Holding Regular Family Roundtables is the solution. They provide opportunities for families to sit down regularly and give kids input in a structured way.
Family Roundtables are brilliant vehicles for parents to establish strong, vibrant cultures in their families. They are best held in the Opportunity Years (from ages 4 – 10) and they take some effort but the returns in terms of outcomes for kids; in terms of creating stronger, more harmonious families; and in terms of reducing parental stress are massive.