Are you a rebel parent?

There has been lots of buzz in the business world recently about rebel leadership.

Books like Rebel Talent by Francesca Gino and Be More Pirate by Sam Conniff Allende show the benefits of breaking the mould and doing things differently – and describe how everyone can unleash their own inner rebel for good.   Coincidentally (or perhaps not!) both books reference the pirates of the past as the epitome of this agile, entrepreneurial, no-holds-barred way of thinking and behaving…

HBR have done a great summary of Francesca Gino’s book (complete with quiz to find out what sort of rebel you are..) – and there is more info about Be More Pirate here though if you are into this sort of thing, buy the book – it is the most thought-provoking and inspiring leadership book I’ve read in an age.     NB I have no links to the book or author.

So how does rebel thinking apply to parenting?*

Recent research has shown that Millennials parent differently – and could be on track to be the most competent parents ever.  Are there already pirate parents out there?  Could you be a parenting rebel?

*I’ve cherrypicked and merged the relevant themes from both books – as Sam Conniff Allende puts it in his pirate code:  “Steal like an artist…take what inspires you and leave the rest”

1. Your family is your ‘Why’ – or your pirate cause

In short, this is about birth control.   We’re almost unique in history, for having children by choice and when we’re ready.  This means that when we have children we’re generally older and wiser than previous generations, and are determined and confident enough to do a darn good job of it.

2. Question everything, then question your questions

Thanks to the internet, we have the most access to information, advice and different points of view of any generation of parents.  And generally have fairly good bulls**t detectors…

Rebel parents learn everything, then forget it: look at all sides of an issue (baby feeding, screentime, work-life balance, education choices, discipline – you name it…), then ignore all the ‘should’s and do what works for them and their family.    They see no single ‘right’ way to do things – but you can bet their decisions are thought through and deliberate.  Which makes them remarkably immune to what other people think of them…

3. Rewrite the rules

Rebel parents also question their own and society’s assumptions.   Who says families should be set up in a particular way?  Are you any worse a mum if you don’t dial back your career after having children?  Why shouldn’t dads be just as good at kissing better grazed knees?  Why is it not possible to start and finish work an hour earlier to manage childcare pickups?

Again millennials have a head start here, as the children of the first wave of seventies feminists.  Millennial dads are much more likely to be hands-on than their dads – and as I’ve written before we’re starting to see a real shift towards equal parenting

Millennials see flexible working and portfolio careers as the norm – leading them to challenge (and gradually change) business attitudes – based on strong evidence that they’re better for motivation, productivity and the bottom line.   This is typical rebel behaviour – finding new ways of doing things that benefit everyone – including their families.

If all this questioning and making up your own rules sounds exhausting (and let’s face it mental energy can be in short supply especially with littlies) – it’s worth considering whether making the wrong decisions and/or living up to other people’s standards is less exhausting…

4. Share power (and responsibility)

This is especially relevant for mums, who can feel responsible for everything, both emotionally (mum guilt) and practically (the mental load, and burnout).

Collaboration and redistributing power is an important part of the rebel / pirate way.   By empowering people to make decisions and letting them contribute what they do best, businesses (and families) can be more agile and efficient.

But sharing power means that someone has to let go of a certain amount of control (Mums, anyone..?).   Which requires a huge amount of rebel guts when you think how women in our culture are often influenced from childhood with an idea of the ‘perfect mother’… who is somehow a blend of the Victorian ideal of the angel in the house and a Stepford wife….

For people with older children, this probably also means sharing decision-making with them, and coming to a common agreement about chores, rules and consequences…  (I say for older children because when I asked my 3-year-old what he thought mummy and daddy should do when he hits his baby brother I was simply met with a baffled stare…)

5. Be open and inventive 

This is about being open to new ideas and happy accidents – in self-development speak, keep a creative and abundant mindset.

Sometimes you’ll discover something that works for you simply by accident – a great game to play while waiting in the doctor’s surgery.  A new time to cram in an hour’s work when you’re surprisingly productive.  A new app.  A new day out that is just the right combination of tiring them out and relaxing for you.    Keep alive to these things and adopt them – flex your lives as you go.

So are we really rebels?

As I’ve been writing this, I’ve been surprised by how many of these things already feature in our parenting (and frankly don’t feel that rebellious, more pragmatic).  But compared to previous generations, there are some pretty major shifts in what we do…

What do you think?  Are you a parenting rebel?

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2 thoughts on “Are you a rebel parent?

  1. I don’t feel rebellious at all, although I have just been talking to one mum who has a very tradional strict routine vs my flexible what ever the day throws at us kind of style…. as you’ll know this is very unlike me as I love routine!!
    I am dreading L starting nursey and going back to a fairly inflexible company for this reason. I might have to make some book purchases (once no spend November is over) before I go back!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha I think you have to be quite lucky to have a baby who goes along with a routine (outside of vague feeding and napping times!). Think it may be just one of the ways parenting teaches life skills – the extreme pragmatism and ‘do what works, give no f*cks what people say’ attitude…
      Be more pirate is brilliant, defo get hold of a copy.


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