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Long Distance Running – Lessons from Parenting

Surely you’ve heard of the similarities between parenting and management. Take for instance just one article – 5 Ways Management and Parenting Really the Same Thing. You’ll find several successful entrepreneurs/leaders pointing to parenting as the place where they fine tuned their leadership chops. I’m beginning to think parenting is applicable to other walks of life as well viz. long distance running.

But first a refresher on parenting styles, of which there are three – a) Authoritarian, b) Permissive, c) Democratic or Authoritative. Authoritarian and permissive, as the names suggest, represent two ends of the parenting style spectrum. This About.com article on Parenting Styles describes the three styles in some detail. Excerpts from that article:

Democratic parents help children learn to be responsible for themselves and to think about the consequences of their behavior. Parents do this by providing clear, reasonable expectations for their children and explanations for why they expect their children to behave in a particular manner. They monitor their children’s behavior to make sure that they follow through on rules and expectations. They do this in a warm and loving manner. They often, “try to catch their children being good” and reinforce the good behavior, rather than focusing on the bad. Parents who have a democratic style give choices based on a child’s ability. For a toddler, the choice may be “red shirt or striped shirt?” For an older child, the choice might be “apple, orange or banana?” Parents guide children’s behavior by teaching, not punishing. “You threw your truck at Mindy. That hurt her. We’re putting your truck away until you can play with it safely.”

My thesis is that a successful long distance runner is one who subscribes to the democratic parenting style. How do I define a long distance runner? Anyone who runs 25k or greater at least twice a month.

I define a successful long distance runner as someone who exhibits the following characteristics:

  1. Runs at least 2 full marathons in a calendar year
  2. Clocks a minimum of 1000 km in a calendar year
  3. Been doing #1 and #2 for at least 3 consecutive years
  4. Running injury free or recovers from injuries pretty quickly

You could argue that #4 is a corollary of the 1st three characteristics put together. You could also argue that “Personal best in timing or increasing the overall running distance – towards the ultra-marathon category” is another success defining characteristic. But hey, this is my definition, right? 🙂 Bear with me for now.

So where does parenting fit in this analogy? The different body parts of a runner are the children of course – lungs, muscles, cartilages and ligaments, joints, bones, and the heart. The mind, of course, is the parent. At this crucial stage, I shall leave the post hanging with the tell-tale  —- to be continued —-


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