The close quarter living that we’re currently experiencing during the coronavirus pandemic tests the patience and communications skills of the most experienced of parents. Living together for long periods leads to heightened tensions and increases the likelihood of sibling conflict. The constancy of family members living together tests your people management skills, revealing any flaws or limitations that exist.
If you rely solely on the ‘do this and do it now’ approach then family life will soon probably become chaotic as you discover that coercion works well in small doses, but fails miserably, over the long-term.
If your style is more the ‘Whatever! It’ll be right’ approach, you will more than likely find that one or more of your children will struggle without structure. In the absence of positive leadership, a child is likely to fill the void, rendering you with limited family influence.
If parallel parenting, where kids and adults go about their separate lives rarely touching base, is your style then you will invariably find yourself locked out of the family circle. You may experience a relatively quiet parental existence, but this will more than likely come at the expense of group cohesion and children’s mental health.
Collaborative family leadership
Life in the coronavirus-induced family cocoon suits parents that use a more inclusive, collaborative parenting style. This is a style that gives kids a voice, commensurate with their developmental stage, in how the family conducts itself.
Collaborative parents also work by the notion that the rules that govern family life also apply to them. For instance, limits applied to kids’ digital device use also apply to parents. This style of leadership encourages respectful behaviour at every opportunity. Children are treated in respectful ways and in turn, parents expect children to treat them and each other with respect. When kids fail or forget to practise respectful treatment of others they are (respectfully) brought into line and reminded of their responsibility to others.
Collaborative family methods
Kids in collaborative families generally help out without being paid. A roster of jobs is the preferred method for ensuring kids contribute, as authority is diverted from parent and rests with the group instead.
Parents who use the collaborative approach use the word “We” a great deal. “We’re relying on you to set the table before dinner” reminds a child or teenager of their contribution to the family good.
Collaborative families also use rituals such as mealtimes, special days and the like to build strong family bonds. These structured get-togethers are balanced with plenty of informal, fun activities where members can enjoy each other’s company.
Most parents who successfully adopt a collaborative leadership style use a method to engage kids in family decision-making and resolution of conflict between siblings, rather than making decisions and solving sibling squabbles in an ad hoc manner. A regular family meeting or council is a common forum used by collaborative family leaders. These meetings may take time to get right and some effort to convince all family members of their benefits, however once they’re embedded they become an invaluable part of a family’s culture.
There are many ways and methods you can use to successfully raise a family, but not every method stands up to the scrutiny of the current close quarter living conditions we are currently encountering. The collaborative leadership style, which can take time to master, is the most suitable approach when kids’ cooperation is at a premium. With family time for once not being at a premium, there is wonderful opportunity to practise a valuable leadership style, whose benefits will remain with you long after the coronavirus ceased ruling our lives.