Robin Booth
Robin Booth

The cost of not learning new parenting skills

“There is much more flow at home. Children seem happier, it takes half the time to have supper, get them bathed and ready for bed. Surprisingly my wife and I now have a more relaxed evening after the children have gone to bed, whereas before we both were exhausted and irritable by the daily evening routines.”

At one of my recent parent communication workshops, the parents were sharing how their new communication skills were making a marked difference in the peace and cooperation at home. Learning simple communication skills, coupled with a certain degree of awareness, led to a home environment where there was a greater sense of team work opposed to a battle field.

This led the conversation to the cost of not learning new skills. Often parents say they don’t have the time or the money to do workshops or further their skill development. It is perceived that learning new skills is more costly than the perceived benefits. And on the surface this may seem so because no-one has really tangibly documented the cost of not being skilled. We took the example of a parent (mother or father) getting home, tired after a long business day. He has to bath the children, get them to eat supper and get them to bed. This process doesn’t go quickly or as smoothly as he would like and leaves him feeling more drained and less focused.

The next day, he is slightly tired and not as effective as he knows he could be. His temper is slighter shorter and this also strains the relationship with his wife. Over the following weeks he still experiences the same situation. Although he is still coping, he thinks the amount of time and energy he spends on getting his children to cooperate with him is normal, though he wishes it could be different.

Every family has the same problems with children right? And he probably also feels that his decreased efficiency and effectiveness at work is also pretty normal. In fact he is probably so used to this pattern he doesn’t even realise it. But he hasn’t yet realised the cost implications of him not being as effective as he could be (which also translates into monetary terms). He still argues that he doesn’t have time or the money to go on communication workshops to improve his skills.

It reminds me of the car driver on a long two-week journey who says he can’t sleep or stop to fill his petrol tank because he has to get to his destination quickly. The irony is that one workshop probably costs him two hours of his income. Yet learning new skills could increase his income effectiveness in exponential ways. His argument about “time” is the same. A workshop series totalling eight hours would give him back that time within three weeks.

Knowing how to engage cooperation, how to support children to be autonomous, how to resolve conflict or find alternatives to punishment take up most of our time and energy. And so far this argument is about time and money, not about the long-term benefits of respectful communication that builds self-esteem and effective relationship-building.

The challenge is that this “cost” of not learning new skills is not documented in ways that clearly demonstrate this impact. Some companies have cottoned on though. They have realised that by supporting their employees in their communication and parenting skills, they have directly increased their employees’ efficiency and effectiveness. This in turn translates to increased productivity and happier employees.

These companies say this has increased communication skills at work (how to engage cooperation, conflict-resolution skills, integrity and responsibility are no different within a family than in an organisation). Some companies even say this was their motivation to run these workshops. If they ran workshops on organisational communication there would be resistance. But run a workshop on parenting communication and employees would be open and receptive. It seems like a win-win solution that benefits productivity, happier family life and empowered children.