A Coaching Power Tool By Jette Vincent, Parent Coach, THAILAND
Responsibility and Laissez-Fair may not be words that directly contrast each other. However, in my work with parents in school settings, it is my experience that the two words does exactly that: parents being fearful of being too much or little of something (authoritarian, weak, controlling, uncool, etc.) in their parenting and consequently they forget or forego their responsibility as parents and resort to a laissez-faire attitude.
The “Responsibility vs. Laissez-faire” power tool is built with a thought for the well-known coaching power tool ‘responsibility vs blame’ and shares the notion that either you are taking responsibility or you are, while not necessarily blaming, choosing not to get involved, i.e., adopting a laissez-faire attitude.
Definition of Responsibility vs. Laissez-Fair
According to the Cambridge Dictionary, responsibility ‘means
something that is your job or duty to deal with.
Taking responsibility means that we are aware that we have a choice and that can be immensely powerful. When we choose responsibility instead of a state of laissez-faire, we create a place of freedom where we have a choice about who we want to be as parents. We often define ‘taking on a responsibility as something that means investing a lot of time and effort and the ‘Responsibility vs. Laissez-Fair’ power tool can help change that perspective into giving us the power to own and influence a situation rather than being burdened by it.
Taking on a laissez-faire attitude can be caused by parents feeling that the parenting role or a parent-related problem is overwhelming. It can also be caused by a fear of failure. When we fear something, it often stops us from doing anything about it. It can be a fear of what will happen if we have expectations of our child that the child may not agree with and, to avoid a confrontation, we adopt a laissez-faire attitude instead. This can lead to a feeling of disempowerment both over the situation but also over who we are as parents.
When we understand how experience, values, and beliefs influence our identity we become more confident in who we are. Being aware of who we think we are is also very much reflected in how we speak about ourselves in our parenting role. Statements such as “It is so hard being a parent” may not foster confidence within the role, but rather remind us of ‘the hard work’. Parenting is a challenge, but it is also rewarding and exciting and funny and warm and important.
When we as parents fail to take responsibility, we miss the opportunity to grow as individuals and as parents and we miss the opportunity to be valuable role models for our children.
Case study: At a parent meeting, parents are asking the teacher to make sure their child eats vegetables during lunchtime at school. When asked what they are doing at home to make this successfully happen, it becomes clear that nothing is being done. Although it is an important issue for the parents, they feel unable to make it happen themselves and hence pass on the responsibility to the teacher.
Everything we do, the decisions we make, and the actions we take, comes from the values, perceptions, and beliefs that we have about ourselves and the world. These values, perceptions, and beliefs are formed since our childhood and continue to be formed and influenced by our experiences within our cultural, mental, and physical environment. Values, perceptions, and beliefs have the power to strengthen, guide, and help us to move forward. But they can also disable us and hold us back by creating fear, anxiety, and insecurities. Our view of who we are as parents are directly informed by values, perceptions, and beliefs about what we think it means to be a parent. There is nothing wrong with this but it should get us curious if the parent role we take on does not align with what we want it to be or we observe that it does not serve our own family.
If it is important for parents that their child eats vegetables, how can the “Responsibility vs Laissez-faire” power tool help the parents change their perception from a state of laissez-faire to one of responsibility?
The way we see ourselves as parents, as well as how we would like to be seen, has a direct impact on the actions we decide to take in a situation with our child.
If we are not clear about our role as parents, we may
- Feel unsure about what we want and hence feel we don’t know what is the best thing to do
- Feel uncertainty about what to do in a given situation
- Feel indecisive and have fear and doubt about our abilities as a parent
- Push away decisions that can potentially create a conflict
- Project the responsibility for a situation onto the child or someone else
- Start an inner negative dialogue about ourselves or our child
- Allow other people to influence our decisions even though their values and beliefs about the parent role may differ from ours
It is therefore important for us as parents to understand how our foundation of experiences, values, beliefs, and perceptions inform and influence our parent identity. This awareness of how our parent reality can lead to clarity and new perspectives about who and how we want to be as parents.
This Self-Rule Style Empowers Individuals Responsibility vs. Laissez-Faire
A good way to find out how our values, perceptions, and beliefs around being a parent serve us is to take note of what happens to us when faced with a parental problem or demand. How do we react in a situation with our child? Feeling stressed, angry, or worried? Avoiding or confronting? Any inner voices speaking to us when things don’t go as we want or expect them to? Our response to the situation will depend on our values, perception, and beliefs about what it means to be a parent, i.e. the foundation our parent identity is built on.
Questions to ask parents:
- What does it mean to you to be a parent?
- What are your values around being a parent?
- Where do these values come from?
- What is influencing your beliefs about what it means to be a parent?
- How are your values and beliefs about being a parent serving you?
- What does responsibility look like for you as a parent?
Once we know who we are, we can start to become aware of how this influences our decisions and actions in our everyday life and interactions with our children. Does who we are as parents align with the version of who we want to be? Are we happy with how things are or is there something we would like to change? What would it mean to you to be the one who actively influences your child’s growth?
Mahatma Gandhi said, All change starts within.
Change can be exciting and open a whole new world ahead of us. Change can also create uncertainty and the initial excitement can be replaced with fear or apprehension of the unknown. With change can come uncertainty. But we cannot reasonably ask for change if we are letting things stay the same.
To help parents moving from a state of laissez-faire to a state of responsibility parents need to be aware of what responsibility looks like for them? What is hindering parents in taking on responsibility? Does responsibility seem like a burden or does responsibility create choices and hence freedom? Are there other ways of viewing ‘responsibility? What would change look like if we took responsibility instead of the parent in a state of laissez-faire? How would this make you feel about yourself as a parent?
Reframing perspectives can help parents to let go of or change how parental issues have been dealt with earlier. It can open up a new way of being a parent that empowers and gives you freedom because responsibility also gives you choices that you did not have when you were parenting in a state of laissez-faire. Responsibility also reminds us that changes can happen anytime. We do not have to wait for a specific time or event to occur.
There is power in knowing that:
- As parents we are responsible for making the changes that will allow us to parent in the way we think is best for our family.
- parents who accept responsibility are aware of themselves and what it means for them to be a parent and what is important for them within that role.
- by taking responsibility there are choices about actions based on own values and beliefs and a higher awareness of what is important in each parental situation.
In the case of the simple case study, it could be useful for the parents to become aware of their own expectations and beliefs around their child eating vegetables.
By first discovering and acknowledge our own values, perceptions, and beliefs around what it means to be a parent we have the potential and power to change. Values, perceptions, and beliefs not explored could hold us back and hinder us in making conscious decisions about what kind of change we are ready for in our parenting role. It is powerful to go on a journey of self-discovery as it allows us to acknowledge our strengths as parents and hence our realities. It can also be an uncomfortable or even scary journey and it’s important to remember that taking action usually requires stepping out of the comfort zone – it could be a small step to start with or, for some if they are ready, it could be a bigger jump. If the client decides to move to the action stage, the coach can be supportive in handling the potential fears related to stepping into the new and unknown. The coach needs to acknowledge the action steps taken, so parents are aware of not only their progress but also their courage in wanting to take responsibility for their parenting role. For parents, as for all individuals, feeling responsible for a situation is highly empowering as it gives you control and you can influence when and how fast you want the change to take place. It also gives us the greatest challenge of all; to make the change happen within ourselves first before we start to expect changes to happen around us.
Covey, Stephen: The 7 habits of highly effective people
Goldsmith, Marshall: Triggers
Peters, Steve Prof.: The Chimp Paradox