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6 Habits of Successful Working Parents

6 Habits of Successful Working Parents

All parents work. But for those of us who work outside the home as well, it can be like working two or more full-time jobs. It’s easy to get overwhelmed…and no one wants to admit that they are barely hanging on. By putting some habits into place, though, you can get yourself on track and become successful. Here are six habits of successful working parents to get you started.

Have backup systems in place

Murphy said, “Anything that can go wrong, will.” That means the day of the big presentation, the kids are going to have the stomach flu. Or your car will break down when it’s your turn to drive for soccer practice. Or you’ll walk into the office not realizing that the baby spit up down your back.

Successful parents can’t plan for every possible contingency. But they can have backup systems in place. What does that mean?

  • Have back-up caregivers in place or the ability to work from home when the kids are sick. (Do not, under any circumstances, bring sick children to work. Not only will you distract your co-workers, but you could cause them to get sick as well.)
  • Set up the carpool rotation so there is an alternate ready to go, if necessary, each day.
  • Keep baby wipes stashed in your car, desk, and at home to handle spills and what not. Baby wipes remove everything–they can even get melted chocolate out of car seats.

Murphy was a rocket scientist (really!). He knew that redundancy and backup systems are essential to success. Follow his lead.

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Know what is on the calendar

Schedules can overwhelm us. Johnny has to be at karate right after school, but your spouse assumed you would be taking him, and now Johnny’s stuck at school. Or you make your way halfway across the city to pick up your 8-year-old, just to find out she has taken the bus home (yes, that happened to me).

One of the fastest ways to lose control is to be blind-sided. You can limit your risk by making sure you are on track every day. What does that mean?

  • Put school calendars into your calendar. Most school districts even have electronic calendars you can pull in. Check it every day for events.
  • Know who is taking whom where. Check with your partner or other drivers the day of the event to confirm.
  • Make sure your children know where they are supposed to be when, and who is taking them. And make sure your children know to speak up!

Keep on top of your calendar, and you will not be blind-sided often.

Focus on kids during family time

Go into any fast food restaurant, and you will see a family with the parents on their phones, while the kids eat or run in the play yard. Or you have probably seen the parent walking in the parking lot, talking on the phone, while his child is playing softball.

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Family time is time spent with family. It’s important for your kids to know that you pay attention to them in positive ways. What does this look like?

  • Put the phone down. Not checking Twitter or Facebook during dinner won’t kill you.
  • Don’t try to work during the game. Be fully present. See little Sally make her first base hit.
  • Make meaningful conversation with your kids. Your kids will know if you are half-listening or giving generic answers.

Family time should mean your focus is on your family. Don’t let other things get in the way of this quality time.

Know that balance is not rigid

We all know that sometimes work takes more. And sometimes (like with a sick child), family takes more. Don’t wear yourself out trying to make sure you spend equal amounts of time with both.

Balance doesn’t mean splitting the pie the same way every day. Balance means that you are flexible enough to know that sometimes work takes more, and sometimes your family takes more. What does this look like?

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  • During weeks you have big projects, let your family know you will be working longer.
  • During weeks when your workload is light, interact more with your family and knock those pesky things off your honey-do list.
  • Make sure you get enough sleep every night. Although balance is flexible, taking care of yourself is mandatory.

(If you are consistently working too much, here are a couple great articles to help: 8 Ways to Stop Working Long Hours and 10 Reasons You Should Stop Working Long Hours Today).

Balance isn’t about rigidity. Find the flow.

Let kids learn from their mistakes

You get a frantic call at the office from your daughter. She’s left her art project at home. Could you please bring it? You can hear the panic in her voice. At the same time, your boss is waiting for you to start a meeting.

As working-outside-the-home parents, it is easy to feel guilty and try to make our children’s paths smooth. But kids build resiliency when they learn from their mistakes. Mark Twain said, “A man who carries a cat by the tail learns something he can learn in no other way.”

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It’s hard to watch them make mistakes. But we need to let them suffer some consequences, too, or they will not grow into responsibility. What does that look like?

  • You help your child prepare for the day, the night before. You show them how to check schedules, and get things ready.
  • You don’t rush to fix things. Let them figure out what went wrong, and what they could do differently the next time.
  • You don’t bail them out. If a project is forgotten at home, let them take the lower grade. Knowing you won’t bail them out makes them more aware of their own responsibilities.

Children can learn from their mistakes. Think about what you are teaching them if you consistently bail them out. Let them learn to be responsible.

Think outside the box

Parents are creative beings out of necessity. It is one of our strengths, and we should use it whenever we can, including with our jobs and family. Bringing our parental creativity to work can actually give us an edge. Bringing our work skills home, too, can give us an advantage. What sort of things transfer?

  • Delegate. You do it at work, do it at home. Use machines to make your life easier (crockpot, microwave, etc). Have other people do your tasks (housecleaning, shopping service). Get your kids involved with chores. Everyone should contribute, and even the smallest child can help.
  • Use people’s strengths. Ask a friend who bakes to do the bake sale cookies while you hook up her new computer.
  • Apply time management to home. You know how to batch tasks and keep a meeting on track. Do the same at home.

Apply what you have learned at work to home to keep things running smoothly.

Working parents don’t have to be at a disadvantage. By adding these six simple habits to your day you can set the stage for being a successful working parent.

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Last Updated on January 15, 2021

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

Posture

First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

  • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
  • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
  • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
  • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

Facial Expressions

Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

  • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
  • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
  • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

2. Relax Your Face

New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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3. Improve Your Eye Contact

Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

3. Smile More

There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

4. Hand Gestures

Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

5. Enhance Your Handshake

In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

“Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

Final Takeaways

Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

Reference

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