Leading a team or leading a child is never just a sit down for an hour a week affair.  More often than not it is leading in each interaction, in each situation and in each moment. Sometimes as little as 1-2 minutes at a time. The cumulative effect of these minutes is what I refer to as building relationship in the time in-between or leading in the cracks..

The cracks of time between home and school. The cracks of time when dinner is on the stove but not quite ready to eat. The cracks of time when one sibling is on the sideline whilst the other is at their activity or sport.  These are the moments, when maximized, have a cumulative effect on a child knowing they are loved, important and understood.

Today my youngest son and I went to pick up my eldest son from drama. We sat in the car and he closed the door and just as I was about to start the car, he opened the door and said, “hang on a minute” He got out of the car with “dancing magnets” in his hands and began testing their sound in various directions. I watched him curiously, also mindful we had 7 minutes to pick up his brother. He got back in the car and we drove off.  I asked, “what were you testing for?” He said I wanted to see which way the sound of the magnets was being carried. It goes over the road, towards our neighbor.” I have to say I’m amazed at the way his mind works – testing for sound direction is not something I have ever come up with!

There was a time when the car door opening as we were about to set off would have caused me to yell. It felt justified, we were in a rush and we had to get to our destination. Often it was a response that I would gloss over and often regret. It’s the self-leadership skills that I’ve learnt that have transformed these moments for both me and my child. Not every time, but most of the time.

As time is stacked against us as working parents, being able to maximize the cracks of time can have a lasting impact on what a child remembers and associates with these moments. When we lead ourselves we get to lead the moment and the memories we create with our child.

Here are four things that can help you lead yourself:

  1. Be curious 

There is usually a logical reason for your child’s action. Jumping out the car when you are just about to leave is not ideal, but by curiously understanding the logic for their actions and accepting this, you create space for new learnings to take place.

  1. Be calm in the chaos

If you are rushing from here to there and your mind is rushing with you, there’s no space to lead in between. Calming your busy mind helps to make 30 seconds of leadership have an impact for a long time after. When your mind is racing off, bring it back into the moment by focusing on the colours and sounds around you. This will help your mind be calm to choose how to respond.

  1. Be clear on your values

When under the pump you default to your values. Being clear on your values and keeping them front of mind allows you to focus on what matters to you most. Developing curiousity is high in our family values and safety is higher. In this example, prioritising curiousity allowed me to be ok with my son jumping out the car. However, if he had taken too long, I would have interrupted and said we had to go because we’d be late picking up his brother, which is a safety value.  Understanding your values allows you to prioritise your time in order of what is important to you and your family.

  1. Be compassionate

It’s impossible to be your best in every moment, unless you are superhuman, in which case we need to have a different conversation! There will be times when you yell, or don’t respond in the way that you hoped or make a judgement call that doesn’t pan out. It is in these moments self-compassion is crucial. The more critical you are of yourself, the more time you spend in your head and less time on what really matters. Forgive yourself and commit to being better next time.

How do you make the most of the cracks of time in-between?