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Allison LaTona, M.F.T.
Psychotherapist | Parenting Coach + Educator

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You are the CEO of your family

In my experience most parents agree on the goal of raising a child who is kind, empathic, generous, honest, responsible, independent, self-motivated, hard-working, resilient, conscientious, insightful, flexible, and altruistic.  They want their child to be a creative problem-solver, an innovator, a planner, a thoughtful decision-maker, with sound judgement, values, and a moral compass.  These qualities and characteristics combine to create a thriving individual with upstanding citizenship.  However, they are not necessarily inherent in a baby and young child, rather, they are simply a potential.  They must be fostered with love, attunement, commitment, limits, diligence and persistence.   

Although most want to raise a child with all of these qualities and more, many don’t realize what this takes over the course of the journey.  It requires daily consistency, resources, self-discipline, acceptance, patience, faith, self-awareness, and willingness to grow, along with an understanding of child development.  Raising children who develop the qualities and values needed to thrive in this world is a complex undertaking and journey that is optimized by an overarching vision of raising an adult, along with partnership, communication and collaboration.

It is with this charge for what is required in raising a child optimally that I use the metaphor of a thriving business.  This is especially helpful when moms struggle to get their partner aligned with the teachings they are working to implement.

As parents, YOU are the CEO’s of your family.  There are no successful businesses that exist without a foundation of a comprehensive business plan.  How this plan is developed and implemented is initiated and overseen by the CEO, but not without a lot of collaboration. 

Any successful corporation has a vision, articulated through a mission statement with objectives.  In order to meet objectives, they must have goals that service them.  There are then daily, smaller tasks and routines that meet the goals, objectives, and eventually the larger vision.  Successful CEO’s have regular meetings with their team to communicate and ensure that their daily tasks are being implemented in the most efficient and effective manner to achieve their goals, objectives, and vision.  They must expect to be present a lot, and listen to their team to optimize relationships and increase cooperation. 

Challenges and struggles in methodology and otherwise are discussed, along with problem-solving with new ideas and plans.  Sometimes CEO’s realize they need to expand or modify their objectives and develop additional goals to more comprehensively meet their vision.  Respectful interaction amongst the team is critical to the morale and consequent success of the business.  CEO’s often have to grow in this process, taking a look at themselves when it becomes apparent there is something in the way to achieving their purpose.  Sometimes they need to build new skills or consult with outside professionals to gain insight and new tools.  Success requires commitment, consistency, communication, and collaboration on all actions and interactions that fuel the vision. 

Raising a child who thrives as an adult requires both a connected presence and appropriate limits from a loving parent.  And…YOU, as parents, must be the CEO’s of your family!

When there are two parents, many accept themselves as the CEO, and their partner as the CFO.  Although I know it’s a reality and necessity that each partner contributes different strengths/skills to the household, collaboration on raising your children is still critically important for optimal success. In a successful business CEO’s and CFO’s collaborate and share responsibility to meet the vision of the company.  

If your child is fortunate enough to be living with two parents, both should be a part of raising them, as it is beneficial for your child to experience both.  For example, when both are home, either parent should be engaged in holding and following through on appropriate limits, as well as helping their child through a tantrum, rather than one parent primarily being the “disciplinarian” and the other just being the “fun” parent.  I recognize parents sharing 50/50 responsibility is rarely a reality…this isn’t about always being equal, rather when both parents are home and available, either parent can execute the plan that serves the agreed upon vision for their child.  If you are a single parent, then enlisting surrounding family or friends to be a part of contributing to the larger vision is important.  Of course, two parent households benefit from family and friends being involved in their child’s life as well.   It takes a village!

Parents as “CEO’s of the family” have regular meetings and communication to discuss:

Parenting Philosophy: Parents need to communicate about their beliefs on child rearing and their vision for raising their child.  Discussing what a child needs to thrive, how feelings should be addressed, and how to understand behavior is at the core of this dialogue.

Additionally, one may want to parent either similarly or different from their family of origin.  Making sense of one’s childhood in a therapeutic context to create a coherent narrative can free a parent to choose how they want to parent, versus the inevitability of unconsciously repeating negative patterns.

Power Balance: Discussing the different parenting styles can be helpful to develop a collaborative approach. 

In simple terms:

The Authoritarian parent uses high limits, low warmth. 

The Democratic parent uses low limits, high warmth. 

The Authoritative parent uses high limits, high warmth. 

We know that children thrive best when there is an appropriate balance of power in the family.  Children need a limited, appropriate amount of power as they pursue autonomy, but too much power leaves them feeling unsafe.  Limits therefore are an inseparable part of the loving experience.  The authoritative parenting style gives a child the optimal ingredients of needing lots of love with plenty of limits. 

Child Development: Understanding a child’s development at each age is critical to having appropriate expectations and parenting effectively.  Daily routines, interactions, and discipline needs to align with where your child is in their development.  As this is dynamic and constantly changing, regular communication regarding development is critical to meeting your family vision.

Parenting technique and tools:  Parents discussing techniques and tools that work to serve their objectives, goals, and greater vision is important.  Philosophy and understanding development will help shape what is agreed upon.  Important in this conversation is defining discipline appropriately, i.e. to teach and to guide, versus to punish; as well as how to do so positively, through connection, validation and redirection.  Additionally, understanding behavior as communication will help guide parents to more effectively choose the optimal response, as they evaluate if the behavior is for attention, power, revenge, etc.  Having a conversation about the importance of allowing feelings will also help guide choices around dealing with behavior.  Referring back to what skills, qualities, and values you want your child to gain is critical in your daily interactions and responses serving the larger vision.

Skills to develop: Parents typically want their child to have self-esteem to help them thrive in the world, yet often don’t realize how that unfolds.  To develop self-esteem, children need two important ingredients.  First, they need to feel felt, which means they need to feel there is someone in their world who gets them, who attunes to their feelings on a regular basis.  Secondly, children need to feel competent, which they will only gain when they have developed skills.  The way in which children build skills is through parents giving lots of opportunities for them to do things for themselves from very early on.  This requires parents to step back, and adopt a stance of “watch, wait, and wonder” before intervening, giving the child the opportunity to struggle through a challenge, tolerate frustration, self-soothe, and problem-solve.  This is easier said than done, and is about finding the right balance…we don’t want children to be under-frustrated, where they then don’t need to build skills, and we don’t want them to be over-frustrated, where they give up.  Understanding the importance of this together is at the foundation of a child’s well-being, and is a ‘tightrope’ to walk as a parent. 

Values to impart:  Parents should share what values they each hold dear and want to impart onto their children.  Modeling is a significant teacher, so parents modeling the values they want to impart is the most impactful.  Additionally, daily interactions, routines, rituals, and limits all service these values being developed. 

Examples of values: Family, Health, Love, Integrity, Respect, Compassion, Caring, Service, Cooperation, Responsibility, Dedication, Commitment, Contribution, Excellence, Innovation, Teamwork, Inclusion…

Qualities to develop: Similar to values, parents need to discuss what qualities they want to see develop in their children.  Again, modeling is the most valuable teacher, so parents modeling the qualities they want to raise will be the most impactful. Daily interactions, routines and limits also fuel the development of valued qualities. 

Examples of qualities:  Whole-Hearted, Emotional Intelligence, Trustworthy, Courageous, Authenticity, Resiliency, Flexibility, Insightful, Creative, Innovative, Citizenship, Forgiveness, Gratitude, Humility…

Family Mission Statement:  After discussing the set of values and qualities parents want for their child, along with the other factors mentioned, a mission statement can be developed.  Everything you do on a daily basis with your children connects to your family mission statement.

Eg:

In our family, we listen to one another.

In our family, we are kind.

In our family, we are truth-tellers.

In our family, we help others.

In our family, we are caring.

In our family, we honor our commitments.

In our family, we ….

Raising a child who thrives as an adult, rather than just survives, requires parents to be the CEO’s of the family, communicating, planning, modifying, growing and being thoughtful as they look ahead at the big picture.  Always keeping in mind that we are raising adults, not just children, will guide your choices.  It will inspire you to be a proactive parent for the long-term gain preparing them for adulthood, versus a reactive parent for the short-term gain or relief of the moment.  This is no easy ‘project’, but hard work pays off with many fruits of your labor.

I share this valuable metaphor as a guiding force in my own family.  My husband and I had, and still have regular meetings and daily communications about what we envisioned for our children, and how our daily set out to meet that.  I see our partnership in parenting as CEO’s of our family as an essential ingredient in our kids’ success.  I can truly say the “proof is in the pudding”, as I witness the beautiful outcomes that have unfolded.  There have definitely been some surprise outcomes beyond our vision that have required growth and acceptance, but it’s all good.  I am so grateful and feel fortunate to share this wisdom hopefully to inspire others.

Allison LaTona