A few weeks back, my 6-year-old, Saveer was exploring new & challenging play structures. There were a few that made him anxious. I realized my job as a parent & leader was to normalize his feelings, give him space & support him to connect with the intrinsic desire to learn something new.
Here is what helped and (didn’t) & my learnings on our role as a leader in any situation.
💡 Validate the feeling – My first job was to give him space to feel & acknowledge his fears. I told him that he was climbing such structures for the first time, it was okay to feel scared & that I still feel scared when I try new things.
💡Coach and model – I asked him what he wanted to do next and that I believed in him and we could take small steps. He resisted because it was still scary. Then I asked him if it would be helpful for me to climb the structure and he can see “one way” not “the only way” of how to climb. He agreed and was motivated to try again. Then there were some tears that my body is bigger so certain things are easier. I told him that was true but also his smaller body meant sliding between bars was easier for him than it was for me. I wanted to remind him of how paradoxes coexist and that there is nuance in almost every situation.
💡Lead from behind – And finally he started climbing and on autopilot, I started talking (I suspect giving instructions) and he yelled – “Stop talking, it makes me unfocused!” I learned the power of trusting and giving others the space they need to learn, fall and stumble.
💡Celebrate – Finally when he did it, I asked him if he was proud of himself, not tell him that I was proud of him because I want him to do great things because it matters to him not to prove anything to me or earn my love. He had a big sparkle in his eye and was ready to do it again over and over!
This story had a happy ending but there are many moments when I am unable to tap into my best self, I say things I realize didn’t help or don’t intervene in the right moments. But instead of shame, there is power in inviting self-compassion. It takes space to reflect and the courage to try again, to show up in the arena with curiosity, humility, and self-belief whether as a parent or in my work.
Thank you little peanut for giving me a chance to experience the joys of motherhood and leadership and learn alongside you!