When our son Isaiah was about 3 years old, we took him to Disney’s California Adventure. As the day got started and we began walking around the theme park, we stopped at a little play area. The play area had swings, slides, bridges and rope walls and all sorts of activity areas just perfect for our little toddler. As I’m climbing the walls and crossing the bridges with Isaiah, we come upon a tube slide. Now, Isaiah had slid down many slides before, but this one was just a little bigger than what he was used to. We get in line and patiently wait while other kids go down the slide. Now it’s Isaiah’s turn. And he freezes. He’s scared. I explain that he’s gone done plenty of slides before and that this is just as fun and safe.
He stalls some more. Kids are now lining up behind us.
I explain to him that it’s safe and that his mom is at the bottom of the slide awaiting his arrival. He begins to cry.
The line behind us is getting longer and now other parents are becoming audibly impatient. I jump into a full out explanation about how Disneyland is a very safe place, about how tons of other kids have done this before and how tons will do it after. I tell him, “Look! Little Tommy over there isn’t crying!”
The line continues to grow. A Disney employee is now at the bottom staring up at us.
Fine, I’ll force him to slide. I grit my teeth and whisper to him, “Isaiah, you go down this slide right now or we’re leaving Disneyland !” He calls my bluff and defiantly stares right back at me.
After what felt like an eternity, I summoned the magic words: look at how I do it. I let go of him, sit down and take the 3 second ride down the slide. Once at the bottom, I turn around and look up at him. “See how Daddy did it? Now it’s your tu…” Before I finish my sentence, my little three-year old is already smiling, laughing and sliding his little butt down the slide.
Lesson learned? Leaders do it first. Whether you’re leading a child, a family, a church, a team, a business or any other group or individual, the ability and willingness to set the example is of primary importance.
What Isaiah taught me was that there is no amount of words, no lengthy explanation or any measure of reason that is as powerful as simply setting the example. As we raise our kids, I have to constantly remind myself of this powerful lesson. I often catch myself wanting to “teach” them through my words. I’ll try to reason and explain and often feel as if they are just not listening. Through Isaiah’s lesson, I've come to understand that although they might not always listen, they are always watching.
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Diego Quevedo is a father of three & a loving husband. Professionally, he manages a team of medical experts. Personally, he's a self-professed geek who loves to read and exercise! He's excited to contribute a dad's perspective to HerMamas.com! We're looking forward to reading more on the leadership lessons fatherhood has taught him!