Being a parent is much like being the conductor of an orchestra. The conductor doesn’t make a sound. The conductor’s power really depends on his/her ability to make other people powerful. Now isn’t that a fascinating analogy of how parenting should actually be?

Our job is to awaken the sense of possibility in our children, no matter how young or old they may be. I am borrowing this concept from the conductor Ben Zander who is famous for his work on The Art of Possibility, which is also the title of the bestselling book he co-authored with Rosemund Stone Zander. In a TED talk he did on this topic of empowering possibility in others, he poses this question, “How do you know you are awakening possibility in others?” And his answer is just beautiful. ”If their eyes are shining you know you are doing it.”

Ben says we need to ask ourselves another important question too: “Who am I being when their eyes are not shining?” I want you to sit with both concepts for a while and contemplate them.

One of the roles of a parent is to be a good cheerleader regardless of whether your child is talented at what he / she is doing or not.  In the early years, particularly in pre- and primary school, your child will be trying out all sorts of activities and may not yet have found their niche or discovered some innate talent.  But one thing leads to another and with encouragement kids persevere, and through the process may just discover something new about themselves along the way.

Praise and encouragement are a powerful force in shaping your child’s self-image and self-esteem.  I’m not suggesting for a moment you use empty praise to give your child a false sense of self.  If your child is not particularly good at something (yet), you need to praise the effort that went into the task rather than the outcome, in order to foster a “try again” attitude. When our children “get” that we are proud of them because of who they are regardless of their degree of talent; that we are fascinated by their projects and awed by their intelligence, we make them feel loved and valued and we bolster them against the negative reviews of the world.

Of course, the older they get, the more they will be exposed to the expectations of the real world and that not everyone thinks they are wonderful or brilliant, and they are not good at everything.  That’s life.  Our job is to build up a strong self-image and self-esteem in the early years and to help our children to discover their own unique set of talents and abilities as their lives unfold.  Ultimately, they must accept themselves for who they are, what makes them tick, and understand what they have to offer. This will be their unique contribution to the world.

Click on Image to watch Ben Zander Clip

So, who are you when their eyes are shining with possibility? And who are you being when they are not? Both children and adults discover new things about themselves as they dance with the adventure of life. This means purposefully interacting with new people and having different experiences.

As I rebuild my life this year after the loss of my husband, I am seeking out the adventure of self-discovery too. For Women’s Day last week, I pushed a new boundary and made a spur of the moment decision to drive to Botswana to visit a friend, making the five-hour journey by myself. My husband always loved driving and consequently I never drove for longer than 2 – 3 hours at a stretch as there was never a need to do more than that. And so, on 9 August, I used my new-found freedom and sense of possibility to stretch and empower myself a bit, discovering a little more of who I am in the process.

We have to be the conductor empowering both our own lives and those of others around us. How are you doing on this point?

With much love,