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Top 10: Ways to Lead by Example in Your Family

This blog is for Nila.

I just attended her 90th birthday in Dallas, Texas. Family surrounded me and I got to see first hand some ‘good parenting’ and ‘role models’.

My Great Aunt Nila is 90

Good parents must lead by example. Through your actions, which are aligned with what you say, you become a person your child wants to follow. When parents say one thing but do another, they erode trust, a critical element of productive relationships. Here are 10 of the dozens of ways to lead by example.


1. Take responsibility. Blame costs you your credibility. It keeps family members on the defensive and ultimately sabotages real growth. Kids can see and feel blame in so many things parents say and do to them. Instead of blame, say “let me help you”. You are the adult so take responsibility and help your child. Also as your families population ages, the younger adults have to take responsibility and help their parents. The trip was full of kids helping their parents. When Susan, Jody, Sarah and Mary ended up of the same flight at my mom and I, it was a mother- daughter convention!

2. Be truthful. Inaccurate representation affects everyone. Show that honesty really IS the best policy. When Mary reminded her children that the birthday party cake would be cut in two hours, she was being very honest and her children did not ask again. Truly a sign of ‘good parenting’.

We al love a good party!

3. Be courageous. Walk through “a crisis” first. Take calculated risks that demonstrate a commitment to a larger purpose. Be a responsible risk taker so your children see these skills in action. This sentence captures Nila’s life as I remember it. I can’t imagine having outlived all of your children (3) and still having the courage to connect and shine in other people’s lives but Nila does this beautifully.

4. Acknowledge failure. It makes it OK for your partner to do the same and defines failure as part of the process of becoming extraordinary. It is OK to say things like, “I really blew that” or “I messed up.” This one, I have to take full responsibility for this. When I was making the plane reservations, I didn’t foster in my sons college trip to Canada. I blew it! It was going to be a long day because it is cheaper to keep the flights I have between Dallas, Reno and Montreal than to change and go from Dallas to Montreal.  But I love Tahoe so my 9 hours stopover in Incline Village was going to be worth it! I had not factored in the “sorry to inform you, we will not be flying to Reno tonight” option in my flight plans.

5. Be persistent. Try, try again. Go over, under or around any hurdles to show that obstacles don’t define you as a person. Show your family that you value persistence. I have to admire Nila’s persistence to her passion while working in the hospital. It is not often that a hospital names a “wing” after someone in your family.


6. Create solutions. Don’t dwell on problems; instead be the first to offer solutions and then ask your family to help think of more options. This is how I see the Avery family. There really never seems to be a problem. When there is a problem, many family members will try to help sort it out.

7. Listen. Ask questions. Seek to understand. You’ll receive valuable insights and set a tone that encourages healthy dialogue. As you looked around the party room, it was apparent that everyone was talking but also everyone was ‘listening’ because often stories were told from one table to another table.

8. Delegate liberally. Encourage an atmosphere in which people can focus on their strengths. Don’t do all the jobs, rely on your child’s ability to help with the things for the family. Have high expectations and then let the child thrive. Too many parents do everything for their child and this lack of delegation makes a child feel they are unable to be successful.

9. Take care of yourself. Balance your life, don’t overwork, take a break. A balanced family, mentally and physically, is a successful family. Model it, encourage it, support it! A child is more than his or her grades. You are more than your job. If long-life is a common theme in your family, it is clear that they can take care of themselves and each other.

10. Roll up your sleeves. The whole weekend was a possibility because Connie rolled up her sleeves and made it happen. You could see her friends and family helping out behind the scenes to make sure everyone had a great time and things went as planned.

I always tell parents they are very special people. I also tell aunts and uncles that they are the role models that families build themselves after. Like Alexander the Great leading his men into battle, you’ll inspire greatness in your family. Better yet, roll up your sleeves, have fun and laugh and your family will become a “great” family.

Here’s to a great family reunion and a perfect 90th birthday party!


Photos: Jsimens – July 17-18, 2011
Author’s content used under license, © 2011 Claire Communications
  • August 3, 2011 at 2:17 pm

    A great list! So glad you enjoyed such a wonderful visit, and shared it with us. Nila sounds like quite the inspiration.