Parenting Is a Family Business

A few weeks ago, I attended a two-day conference in New York City sponsored by the World of Business Ideas. Many of the speakers emphasized the socioemotional components that nurture successful corporate leadership and well-functioning management teams. As a psychologist, I recognized that many of the issues they discussed were relevant to parenting.

For example, one of the speakers talked about emotional triggers. He described them as hijackings of the amygdala. A vital part of parenting as well as corporate behavior is being self-aware enough to recognize our emotional triggers and do our best to manage them. Certainly, as parents, each of us has emotional triggers that are frequently set off by our children. Knowing how to manage such “mind fields” helps minimize outbursts. Our capacity to manage ourselves models appropriate behavior for our children. We help them articulate what they are feeling and why, and we give them strategies to reduce their anxiety and fears.

The speakers frequently referenced resilience and adaptability. Parents realize that encouraging kids to do their best with minimal interference helps foster resilience. If we prevent them from learning from their mistakes and failures, they will not develop the capacity to bounce back from setbacks or trust their own ability to work things out. A female entrepreneur remarked that she purposefully asks each prospective job candidate that she interviews to share a personal incident of career failure. If the interviewee blames someone else for the mishap, the entrepreneur immediately deems the individual unsuitable because she feels that one’s inability to shoulder responsibility can undermine collaborative efforts.

Another speaker described the makeup of a successful management team, which resembles an adaptable family unit. The most successful teams know each other’s strengths and weaknesses; their conflicts are readily identified and resolved; and they have lots of fun together. They do not worry about presenting dissenting opinions. They feel free to speak their minds and disagree with the people in power. One business leader said that employing dissenters and disruptors enables companies to innovate and grow.

Managing families and companies can be challenging and messy. Humanistic elements are the keys to successful businesses and happy families. Parents and managers work diligently to help their charges feel appreciated and connected by demonstrating trust and affinity. This encourages family or company members to become self-motivated individuals who are adept at emotionally managing themselves.


Image courtesy of Barney Moss (CC BY 2.0)

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