Family Engagement in Schools: Leadership Skills Start at Home
Author: Tara West
June 13, 2019
Family engagement in schools is a vital part of education in the classroom. Family engagement is the foundation in which students learn how to interact with others outside of the family. What is modeled at home, is modeled in the classroom. So, how can parents help their children be model students? The answer is to Think Win-Win.
Family Engagement at Home
“Because I said so” and “Because I am the parent” are often answers given by parents to explain why a child must either do, or not do, something in particular. If I were a betting woman, I would go all-in that most of these interactions end with both parent and child upset and frustrated, also known as “lose-lose.” There is no “winner” in the interaction; both parties end up unsatisfied. There is an alternative way of working through these situations that can actually leave all involved with a pleasant outcome. It’s called “Think Win-Win.” Stephen R. Covey said, “Think Win-Win is a frame of mind and heart that seeks mutual benefit and mutual respect. It’s not thinking selfishly (win-lose) or like a victim (lose-win). It’s thinking in terms of ‘we, not me.’”
Thinking win-win is the key to working well with others in any setting. It is the most effective way of thinking, especially in a family. Families that learn and practice win-win thinking are happier, experience less conflict, and are better able to meet family challenges that arise. There is also more trust developed within the family. John Gottman, who is a psychological researcher and clinician, said, “Trust is built in the smallest of moments.” In a family, there are many of these “small moments” every day that can change the level of happiness. These small moments can be thought of as deposits in an “Emotional Bank Account.”
Emotional Bank Account
The Emotional Bank Account represents the quality of the relationship you have with others. It’s like a financial bank account in that you can make ‘deposits’ by proactively doing things that build trust in the relationship, or you can make ‘withdrawals’ by reactively doing things that decrease the level of trust.
– Stephen R. Covey
The tricky part about the account is that it is the RECIEVER, not the giver, that decides if something is a deposit or a withdrawal. A great way to find out what a deposit is to each family member is to ask them! Also, ask what a withdrawal is to them. As a parent, you may be surprised what each is to your child. I recently asked my 12-year-old what a deposit is to her from me. I was surprised to hear that she loved when she and I could just talk without me asking her to do a chore. After that conversation, I have been more keenly aware to just chat with her and then, after a while, ask her to complete the needed chore. To my surprise, she is much more willing to complete the chore and do it without complaining. As a great side effect, she is also coming to me to start conversations that I don’t believe she otherwise would. I am secretly jumping up and down because this is exactly what I was hoping for as she enters her teenage years. I know it might not last, but the fact that I am learning how to make it happen is a win to me! Each of my children and my husband has had different answers as to what a deposit and a withdrawal is to them. I have found that as I have been practicing giving those deposits, they are coming more naturally and I am making fewer withdrawals.
Our families are the people we generally spend the most time with, so why not make them the recipients of as many deposits as possible? If side effects of deposits are happiness, less conflict, and trust, wouldn’t we want to make as many deposits as we could? Unfortunately, because families are the people we generally spend the most time with, we can be the most unkind to each other. We cannot “break up” with our children (although there are times I threaten to sell mine to the circus, to which my four-year-old asked if he could be sold to the airport instead). We tend to be so comfortable around the people whom we love deeply, around whom we can be sure of ourselves, that we forget to take care of them and tend to take them for granted. It is easier to give a deposit to the new neighbor who just moved in who has never hurt your feelings than it is to give one to your spouse who forgot to kiss you goodbye that morning. Practicing gratitude for each family member is one way we can break the cycle of familiarity and start a new cycle of deposits, happiness, and trust. I have searched and searched, and the conclusion I have found to be the most unanimous is that it takes at least five positive acts to outweigh one negative. Remember, as Stephen Covey said, “The more constant a relationship, the more need for constant deposits.” That’s why family engagement is critical for success in the classroom. The more deposits we make at home, the better our students will do overall.
Before we go any further, I must admit that this has not always been a natural way of living and thinking for me and my family. While learning the concept of the Emotional Bank Account, I plummeted into a deep trench of guilt for past behavior. I am not 100 percent sure from whom or where I received the advice, but I wrote it in my planner and my journal, and on a Post-it note stuck on my computer. It says, “Now that you know better, do better. If you didn’t know it before, don’t dwell on the guilt of past actions.” It has become life-changing as I have let go of past behaviors and actions. I also remind my family as we are making these changes and learning together that we are going to forget how we should be acting at times, and it’s in those moments that we need to be quick to ask for forgiveness and give forgiveness.
In learning the Think Win-Win concept, we must remember to balance courage for getting what we want with consideration for what others want. When conflicts do arise—because they will—we look for 3rd Alternatives. We cooperate instead of compete. Think of someone in your family with whom you sometimes compete. Now think about sharing a remote control with this person. Here are some possible outcomes you may have rehearsed in your mind:
- Win-lose: I get the remote and you get nothing. We don’t have enough for both of us.
- Lose-win: You get the remote and I get nothing. If you win, I am a loser.
- Lose-lose: We argue and I throw the remote against the wall. If I’m going down, you’re going down with me.
Did this alternative come to mind?
- Win-win: You and I decide to turn off the TV and play cards. It’s not about you or me; it’s about both of us.
Think of each member of your family—what would be a “win” for them right now? As we practice win-win,” we find that our perception of each member of our family changes. We will start to see and magnify their strengths and more genuinely accept and help them overcome their weaknesses. When you clearly communicate how you feel about each family member, the “magic” will begin to happen! Remember Stephen Covey’s definition of leadership in the home and family is “communicating to [them] their worth and potential so clearly that they come to see it in themselves.”
More Leadership at Home Activities
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