#TalkEarly and Often About Leadership; Your Kids Might Be Listening

I am a #TalkEarly ambassador for Responsibility.org. I have received compensation for my work, but all opinions are my own

As parents, we one of our favorite go-to lines about our kids is – they never listen. We say it because it’s totally true.

If I had a nickle for every time I asked my 7yo, “Hey, did you hear what I just said?” I’d at least be able to buy a megaphone so he would really hear me.

  • What’s that? You broke your arm doing stupid thing I told you not to do? Well, clearly you weren’t listening
  • What’s that? You feel sick and just threw up a bunch of chocolate because you ate it in one sitting, like I told you not to? Clearly you weren’t listening.
  • What’s that? You’re exhausted and cranky because you didn’t nap today like I told you too. Well, clearly you didn’t listen.

Recently, I had pretty much given up on my kids every really listening to me, or giving me the time of day when it comes to me trying to teach them things. But one thing I will never give up on; teaching my kids about the dangers of alcohol and alcohol abuse.

April is Alcohol Responsibility Month, and as I have talked about before; the dangers of alcohol abuse is something that hits close to home for me. I’m a self-diagnosed alcoholic. Just sitting down and taking a look at my family history, and my past actions revolving around alcohol dependency; it doesn’t take a medical degree to reach that conclusion.

Late last year; as part of my partnership with Responsibility.org, I had the great opportunity to meet Gold Medalist, two time FIFA Women’s World World Cup Champion, former Captain of the US Women’s National Soccer Team, and the probably the most impressive stat of all (in my opinion), born and raised in my home town of San Diego, CA – Julie Foudy.

Meeting Julie was an amazing opportunity, and listening to her speak about her time on the World Cup teams, and even more; her work she does now as part of her own Sports Leadership Academy, will be something I will always hold close.

So, what does all that have to do with alcohol awareness, and my kids not listening? Hold on…I’m getting there.

Of all the awesome stories, and quotes Julie gave us; one stuck out for me, head and shoulders above the rest. And that quote was, Leadership is personal; not positional.

At first it felt like she was simply referring to soccer. She had been telling us stories of issues with former teammates, or issues when traveling with the team, and how she, and other members of the team, had chosen when to stand up and speak up for what was right. And, that it didn’t matter what the name was on the back of your jersey, or what position you played, or even how many goals you scored; if you knew it was the right thing to do…do it.

That got me thinking quite a bit about my own struggles, and how being a leader wasn’t something I’ve ever seen in me, nor has it been something I’ve felt like in the past. In fact, I would say I’m a fairly consistent follower. Not a follower in a bad sense, like doing bad things because other people pushed me into it, but a follower in the sense that I’m not the guy to speak up very much. I don’t rock the boat, if you will. I don’t take the bull by the horns. I’ve always kind of been a go with the flow guy, and not much of a motivator.

I’ve never really liked that position, but it seemed to be the role I was supposed to play, and I tired to do my best at it. But it’s definitely not something I want for my kid. But how do I teach my kid about being a leader, when I don’t see myself that way?

See, leadership plays a big role in kids growing up and facing issues with peer pressure, drugs, and alcohol. Knowing when to say no. Or speaking up to friends. Making the unpopular decision, to do the right thing. How do I teach my kids to be that stand-up person, when I’ve never really been that person? And couple that with them not listening…I’m screwed.

But, as they always do; my son shocked me the other day, by showing me he’s listening.

As I’ve mentioned recently; I’ve been going through a tough time with a relationship that is crumbling, and with that comes a lot of the same stuff my son witnessed with his mother and I. Arguing, stonewalling, insulting, and much more behavior I’m ashamed I’ve been apart of; especially in front of children.

At a random moment of quiet, my 7yo asked if he could speak with me. He told me he didn’t like seeing all the arguing, and that he thought that I, and the other individual involved, might want to think about taking some time apart until we could treat each other better. At first, I got upset, but quickly realized that was because of my feelings, and not him. My fears, not his advice, that proved he’s smarter than I give him credit for; wise beyond his years.

Ok, maybe the last part was a little too much, I mean this IS the same kid who did this…

…so, let’s pump the brakes a little.

But, he was also right. And in that moment I saw that he has been listening. And that he’s more of a leader at 7yo, than I might be at 41yo. He knew what he said to me was the unpopular thing to say. That it was something I wouldn’t want to hear, but he said it because he knew it’s what was right. Personal, not positional.

I’m not saying my kid won’t experiment with alcohol, or even do something not-so-smart when drinking alcohol. And that’s why I will continue to have those conversations with him, because…and I can’t believe I’m going to give him this credit:

He’s actually listening.

I encourage all parents to have these difficult conversations with your kids. It’s never too early to talk to your kids about alcohol. And, if you haven’t started yet; do it now. And let Responsibility.org help with those tough talks. They have no shortage of tools, or conversation starters to assist in connecting with your kids.

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