Permission to Parent Provides Lessons From the Playroom to the Boardroom

by Leslie Lennergard

During her medical school rotation in child psychiatry, Robin Berman, MD, realized that the best way to help children was often to help their parents, and, thus, she began her lifelong journey of parental education. In her bestselling book, Permission to Parent: How to Raise Your Child With Love and Limits, Berman provides 10 thoughtfully curated chapters of recommendations about how to successfully navigate the parenting journey. Within each chapter, there are sub-chapters of bite-size concepts that are reinforced by anecdotes and quotes from children, parents, adult children, and healthcare professionals. 

These colorful contributions are truly what make this book a great read, and they leave the reader with a sense of parenting optimism, particularly as the 10th and last chapter, “Out of the Mouth of Babes,” is comprised solely of quotes. For the time-challenged or those needing a quick refresher, at the end of each chapter is a one-page list that summarizes the concepts.

As a newly married Millennial whose only child is an adopted 40-lb. shepherd mix, I enjoyed this book and would recommend to future parents, current parents, and grandparents. Throughout each of the 10 chapters, I would find myself reflecting on my childhood and my parents, wondering where my parenting strengths and challenges would be if my husband and I decided to expand our family. I also thought, "Wow, parenting is an exercise in constant self-reflection and evaluation." And then I thought, "Who in the world has time for all of this when we are forging our own career paths, developing our own identities, focusing on our other relationships, and maybe have a hobby or two?" I kept thinking, "Will I have to make a trade-off at some point, or is there a way to balance the numerous hats we as women wear?" Even Berman acknowledges this in her chapter titled “Prada Kids.” She writes:

“As professional women have become professional moms, they, along with dads, have brought professional expectations about performance to parenting. These skill sets just don’t translate. The very skills that help you succeed in the workplace collide with the essences of childhood. Work is scheduled, competitive, orderly, fast-paced. Childhood is slow, messy, unfolding without deadlines and spreadsheets.”

Many of Berman’s points apply to more than parenting. As I read her book, I highlighted certain sections, thinking these definitely apply to being successful in the workplace, particularly as a leader. In her chapter, “Trash the Trash Talk,” she writes:

“It is tough to shape honesty by modeling deception. Be a trustworthy leader. Actions that match work to create safety and strengthen connections.”

Wow. Isn’t that exactly how we should aim to be as professionals? Every organization I have worked for recognizes specific behaviors in the performance review process. Being trustworthy and respectful has been included in every one of my reviews. This book is filled with takeaways that cross the parenting and professional spectrums, and, dare I say it, bleed into adult relationships as well.

We have to make time for ourselves to decompress from all of life’s competing priorities and to self-reflect, being thoughtful about where we go next. In doing so, we become better parents, spouses, friends, employees, and bosses. We heard it from Mel Robbins at the HERe National Conference in October 2015, and Berman highlights the importance of these moments from a parenting perspective:

“Being in the moment often requires letting go of your to-do list and quieting the constant ruckus from the outer world. We need to find our own equilibrium so we can help our children find theirs. It helps to build space into our days for quiet moments. You get to set your home’s tempo.”

Seems easy, right? It’s not hard to get a bit cynical here, but Berman’s ability to show that a little peace can really go a long way with parenting keeps the reader grounded in optimistic realism. It does not have to be the cutthroat, exhausting competition we think of today in the workplace. As I finished the book, I was left with the sense that parenting can be extremely challenging, but it produces a beautiful, rewarding, lifelong relationship with your children. It is in this lifelong relationship with your children that Berman focuses on the opportunity to continuously grow and course-correct. One of the more memorable quotes was from Stephanie, age 50, in her description of her mother:

 “My mother showed me that it’s never too late to learn, and you’re never too old to grow. She learned to say that she was sorry in her 70s, and now she is a pro.”

It is because my mom has continuously grown and shifted her approach to parenting that I am still able to have a positive, meaningful relationship with her, and as such, I'm also able to call her a best friend and confidant.

Leslie Lennergard, FHFMA, is strategic planning manager at Aurora Health Care.