Being a dad teaches you many things. Often it teaches you about the depth of feelings and emotions you weren’t aware you could feel – the love and devotion which can only occur between parents and their children; husbands and their wives; husbands and husbands; wives and wives.
This morning I got a wonderful reminder of a skill and approach I’ve had to develop as a dad. A dad to an extraordinary three and a half year old; a little girl of strong will and independent mind.
Dr J and I learnt a lesson recently that will serve us well in the future as parents and indeed in all dealings with adults, whether at work or in our personal lives. Don’t make suggestions – especially about what one should wear – or try to dictate terms on what we say or do. This is not the route to buttermilk and smiles all round. Our daughter responds much better to “what would you like to wear?” or “why don’t we choose today’s dress together?”. Go figure. Who likes to be told what to do. Not me. Not Dr J. Not Miss J – that’s for sure.
When trying to secure buy-in to an idea, I would always advise clients to secure the maxiumum possible involvement. Don’t try to impose a view, help to co-create it. Why then, don’t I apply that thinking to the daily routine of what to wear for nursery or – as with today – the latest friend’s party? In truth, the answer is an underestimation of how strong our daughter’s mind and personality has already been formed – thinking we – as the big people – could shape her views and ideas. On matters of sartorial elegance, we should know better. It is a lesson learnt. Joint-decision-making. A team effort. Seeing Aoife as the first amongst equals. As Andrew Lansley may have said; “no decision about me without me”.
The overall lesson is that we should all try to avoid being dictators and focus more on being facilitators – on bring people together to find a shared way forward. We should look at the example set by the Jimmy Carter and Henry Kissinger’s of this world. The peacemakers. The negotiators. The solvers of big problems. The facilitators. The diplomats.