Stacking Teacups On Your Head–Four Principles For Parents

One of my favorite vacation memories is of Dieter Tasso stacking teacups on his head. The trick was that he threw each teacup and saucer from his foot to rest upon the previous teacup – on his head.

Some of you may feel like Tasso these days. You are trying to balance more than you ever thought possible. Sometimes navigating between parent and friend to your child is challenging, but now you are teacher and coach as well.

Piano lessons seemed like a great idea, but now you are not just tracking practice times, you’re helping with Zoom lessons and answering questions you were paying someone else to address.

Math? Forget it. Your version of subtraction no longer adds up, and don’t even get me started on geometry or calculus. We don’t want to let our kids in on the secret that many of them really won’t use this information later in life.

Some of you are craving a bit of social distancing within your own home. So, what are you to do? Unfortunately, there are no easy answers, no escape hatches.

The bottom line is that you embrace your role during this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to influence your children in ways they may never forget. Keep these four principles in mind as you stay strong and lead the way.

#1: This too shall pass

Last month I wrote that the sky isn’t falling – it just feels like it is. Help your children to gain and maintain perspective. This is an unprecedented event for those of us living through it, but humanity has survived innumerable unprecedented events and we will get through this as well. People are dying. Jobs are being lost. Investments are shrinking.

But the love of a family persists. Make sure your children see you modeling an appropriate response to these events. 

This is a great season for perspective. 

#2: Your child having a future is paramount, even if that future is different than planned.

It is sad to see the number of people who won’t have their planned weddings, graduations, or once-in-a-lifetime family gatherings. We have a friend whose Olympic dreams have been put on hold and he has no idea whether they will ever be realized. 

Many of us are used to living near the top of Maslow’s hierarchy, focusing on self-actualization. Now we are joining much of the world that spends their lives attending to physical needs and safety. Your child’s future depends on being here for the future more than it depends upon that cherished event.

Help your children recognize that while we are suffering, we have simply entered the world in which many people live their daily lives. Teach them to turn from self-pity to serving others, and they will discover that everyone’s situation improves. 

This is a great season for empathy. 

#3: You are teaching far more than math or science these days.

Your children are watching. Study after study affirms the same truth. More than their peers, children care deeply about the values and affirmation afforded by their parents. They care what you think about the world, about faith, money, sex, relationships, communication, and family. 

They do a great job of acting as though they are indifferent and many parents abdicate their influence because they believe this indifference is real, but these same parents should recognize that they still care what their parents thought and taught. We measure our lives against the lives and affirmation of our parents.

Don’t get lost in the weeds and miss the larger point that your children are watching how you handle a crisis and from that they are learning how they should live their lives. 

This is a great season for modeling. 

#4: Love covers a multitude of sins.

My father was a minister and during his 50 years of serving families he saw it all. He reminds me that even when things got ugly, families have a remarkable way of healing because love covers a multitude of sins. You are tired and grouchy. Digging for bugs was fun for the first fifteen minutes, but your child persists in that pursuit for hours and wants your full attention.

Don’t despair. You are doing far more right than you currently recognize. You may lose your temper or say something you wish you could retract. Fine. Take a deep breath and reengage. As someone who has worked from home for more than 15 years, I know all about children interrupting work. When you are on that Zoom call and the dog barks or the kid screams, laugh.

It’s OK. People understand. Remember: You can never be everything your child needs and this season is no different. There will be gaps in your child’s experience during this pandemic, but they will catch up. 

This is a great season for grace. 

Hang in there. Your family is doing better than you realize. Just be thankful you don’t have to teach your kids how to stack teacups on their heads.


Dr. Stephen Julian is President of Julian Consulting, a firm specializing in team health, effective communication, and leadership development. He has worked with leaders and their teams for nearly 30 years in a variety of settings – including Africa, South and Central America.

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  1. submitted by Gary Appleton - on October 16 2020

    Great article, Steve. It’s been a long time! I stumbled on Chip Tudor’s website through a Linked-in email, and saw his reference to this article of yours. Excellent… what’s the best way to pass it along to my adult children, who are all parents?

    • submitted by Chip Tudor - on October 17 2020

      Gary, you can copy the URL link and paste it into e-mail or text. You can also go to Chip’s Facebook account where it is also posted and share it. Glad you liked the article. I will be sharing more of Stephen’s articles along with another friend of mine, Tom Gilson.

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