Parenting as Leading

How can we get our children to behave? Simple: Parent like the great conductors. Itay Talgam shows us how it’s done in his TED talk “Lead like the Great Conductors.” Simple, but not necessarily easy. Bob’s story about how his five-year-old son resolved a conflict gives us a vision of what the result can look like.

Bob and son, Ty, walked into a clothing store, and first thing, saw a mother yelling at her four-year-old son. The son yelled back, and the mother lashed out with a blow to the arm. Her son reacted with a yelp and more anger, which produced more hitting and more yelling. Bob began to move toward the two, intending to intervene. “I hate to see parents abusing their children. I never could just stand by. I have to get involved.”

Ty was also visibly upset. But sometimes children are smarter than adults. Here is what Ty did: He reached into his backpack and took out a transformer he kept with him at all times. Approaching the fighting couple he got there before his father. Smiling, he gave the transformer to the boy, who smiled back. Then the mother smiled at him, too, and said, “Thank you.” They all then went back to their hunt for clothing.

Later, Bob told me: “I keep learning from my son. Ty keeps showing me how I could do better. My intention was to confront her angry behavior directly. It would only have made her anger worse, of course. It certainly would not have made that mother smile. (‘…Who are you to tell me how to raise my kid…?) We can all imagine how ineffective my righteously indignant intervention would have been. Ty, on the other hand, fixed the situation.

“What I didn’t appreciate (and what I didn’t give her credit for) was that she, in fact, did realize her behavior was inappropriate. That wasn’t the issue – it was that she was out of control. On some level, Ty realized this and his approach – which was to diffuse the situation ‘through kindness’ – kept her dignity in place, made her smile and replaced her anger with appreciation. He offered peace – while I was going to offer advice. His approach was clearly – and significantly – more effective!!”

Leaders create the conditions that bring out leadership in others. If our role as educators is to lead each child’s genius out into the world to function effectively and gracefully within it, then we must learn to lead.

Children often can lead us, and when they do, it’s a sign that we have been leading them well.

Does Bob’s story give you ideas?

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