While the time of kings and queens has passed for most countries, the phrase from William Shakespeare’s King Henry IV is still applicable today in just about every modern leadership situation: “Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.” While no one may be wearing a crown anymore, the weight of responsibilities is substantial for most people in a variety of contexts.
Heavy is the head that wears the crown means being in a position of authority in any context is a serious responsibility that is burdensome. The phrase serves as a reminder to the leader that the fate of subordinates is in their hands. Those who recognize that sense of duty experience a lot of unease and anxiety.
In Henry IV, the phrase is used to indicate the responsibilities of being a king, and the anxiety that comes along with it, as noted by Literary Devices.
Poor King Henry bemoans that lesser subjects can sleep easy at night, but a king will never sleep soundly due to the burden of responsibilities that the crown has placed upon his head and shoulders.
I’m not sure if Queen Elizabeth has insomnia, but the phrase ‘Heavy is the head that wears the crown’ is still applicable to modern-day responsibilities and expectations.
The quote does relate to a genuine concern for leaders of any kind in society.
Good leaders can create amazing situations by learning to leverage the strengths of those for whom they are responsible and creating the right systems around them.
While someone lower in the corporate totem pole might only be concerned about arriving at work on time and doing their best to complete their daily tasks, the CEO has to juggle multiple balls like worrying about profit margins, fluctuations in the economy, and how to deal with demanding shareholders.
It’s not an easy job when people’s livelihoods are on the line, and even small decisions can have massive consequences for the people working below.
Leaders are left with difficult choices that affect their subordinates. These are choices that most ordinary people do not have to make.
Should a leader sacrifice a few workers to keep a struggling company afloat? Which employees could be reassigned, knowing that families depend on those men and women? How do you stop other staff members from leaving the business when they know their ship might be sinking?
These are difficult questions that could keep any empathetic person from a good night’s sleep. This is the heaviness of the crown.
While the prominent “Heads” in our modern times are presidents, prime ministers, CEOs, and business leaders, parents also have a unique leadership role that has become even more important for the current generation.
Heavy is the Head: Why the Role of the Parent is Crucial in a Child’s Life
Most of us have heard the phrase, “With great power comes great responsibility.”
It is a commonly used proverb that reminds us of the vital truth that power is not just about money, wealth, or status, but it is also about accountability and obligations to the people who trust you. This phrase is especially applicable to parents.
When one looks at the current generation of children, for example, it’s easy to wonder if their parents have failed them. Are the stereotypes that are so commonly used to describe them accurate? Are they apathetic, lazy, entitled, and distracted? Probably not.
Each of the several previous generations has suffered similar labels, all to become highly productive contributors to society when the time arrived.
That doesn’t change the fact that the current generation about to come of age is dealing with the same issue as their predecessors (source).
For parents of this group, it is their job to ensure the storyline does not become a reality.
To do so, they should consider the challenges unique to this generation, in addition to those that cross generations.
Generation Z has been heavily influenced by social media, technology, and video games.
Even wealthier parents have replaced quality time with their children with technology and expensive clothes, communicating the perceived importance of material goods over relationship and connection.
Using this generation as an example, we will continue to evaluate the gravity of the responsibility of parenting
What Children Need From Their Parents
Some new parents are overwhelmed by the idea of being responsible for another human being.
Millennials are the latest generation to enter parenthood at a mass scale and have come to realize how difficult it is to care for a helpless baby.
A child requires so much from parents and on the most basic level, parents are responsible for a child’s physical, social, emotional, and cognitive development. (source)
- With regards to physical development, parents are responsible for a child’s basic needs of nutrition and health, and as a child grows, they are responsible for keeping the child fit and active.
- For social development, parents are responsible for their child’s first interactions. Children not only develop their vocabulary and language from their parents but also learn conflict resolution, negotiation, compassion, and empathy.
- In a world that presents many opportunities for kids to judge themselves and develop negative perceptions of those around them, a child’s emotional development is of vital importance. Both positive and negative psychological traits are learned in large part from parents. Self-esteem, love, and understanding of emotions are taught through parental interactions.
- Cognitive development is also something that parents are responsible for. A household in which parents read to their children encourages a love for literature early on in life. It is a parent’s responsibility to ensure that their child has ample opportunities to receive a quality education in an environment in which they can succeed.
Without these basic needs, a child will struggle. However, these needs are not always easy to meet, especially as the child gets older. Parenting is a responsibility that never ends but only changes as the child matures.
Parents Must Choose to Wear the Crown
Today, parents spend more time with their kids than any generation before (source).
As a result, they feel overwhelmed by the expectations of society, of families and of themselves on how to raise their children.
What worked for previous cohorts of parents is not going to work for the current generation.
While previous generations followed more traditional roles of childcare where mothers took over the bulk of parental responsibilities and fathers were the disciplinarians, Millennials have discovered that parenthood is a very different experience.
A lot of them grew up with more authoritarian methods of parenting, and most of them have decided that they do not want their children to grow up in the same way.
This means that more families are trying democratic methods of parenting, giving their child a chance to choose, express themselves, and be an individual.
While this idea looks great on paper, it doesn’t always work in real life. Think about when you were a child, and it was suppertime.
Whatever was put on the table was what you were expected to eat, no ifs and buts. If you didn’t eat supper, you didn’t eat at all, and that was fine.
While the method may not have been diplomatic, it forces you to try new foods, to be less picky, to be thankful for a home-cooked meal or just food in general.
Now, parents ask their children what they want for supper. They listen to different menu choices and are willing to prepare multiple meals simultaneously based on likes, dislikes, and desires.
This shift in decision-making applies to many aspects of the home: homework, playtime, going out, things they want, technology usage, and so much more.
By doing so, parents have ceded their power to the child. Some parents are no longer the leaders in their own households, and it shows in the behavior of their children.
Like a weak king who sits on a wobbly throne, these parents find themselves at their wits end on how to control their child as they get older. If no one respects the king, then who will follow him?
To create disciplined and respectful children, parents need to mold their kids into their disciples.
The power of the parent is in the behavior they model. If parents model the expectations they have for their kids through deliberate and intentional practices, they will be better positioned to help them grow into well-adjusted and successful young adults.
With modeling as the foundation for their parenting, they can implement healthy, age-appropriate discipline and consequences when necessary.
Why Parents Should Not Be the Child’s Friend
Friendship never seems like a bad thing, but one needs to question if a parent should be their child’s friend.
The very nature of friendship is based around equality, and that is not the nature of a parent’s relationship with their child…or at least, it shouldn’t be while they are growing into young adults.
Ideally, there a close relationship between a parent and child, but it has to have clear boundaries.
Studies have shown that when a child trusts their parents, they are more likely to share secrets and report better relationships with their parents.
This does involve some sharing on the parent’s part as well but not to the extent where they treat their offspring like an equal and share details that aren’t age-appropriate for the child.
Parents should be helping children with their problems, not creating the idea that the child is there to help them.
While most teenagers may disagree with this, they actually crave control and boundaries in their lives.
Parents cannot be their child’s friend or be the “cool” parent that gives them whatever they want. “Cool” parents are the ones who let their child run the house, and in doing so, stop the child from learning responsibility, self-control, and self-management. (source)
Helicopter and lawnmower parents are there to remove any difficulty from their child’s life, and that is not what parenthood should be about. Kimmy didn’t do her homework? Her mom calls the school with an excuse. Jared left his P.E kit at home? Dad will run home to get it for him. Tommy gets a bad grade on his report card? The teacher must be incompetent.
By trying to be their child’s friend, parents remove their authority and the rights that come with it and demonize other authority figures as people who “just don’t understand” their child.
Our society does not need “cool” parents. Our society needs adult rulers who are able to manage their subjects. A weak king will have a weak kingdom.
What Good Parenting Looks Like
This answer is dependent on societal, cultural, and familial expectations. One parent’s perfect child might be another parent’s nightmare.
The main thing is that parents need to feel like they can succeed as parents. This is explained through the Self-Efficacy Construct hypothesized by Albert Bandura. (source)
His theory stated that parents needed three factors to believe that they were doing a good job. This also allowed them to feel that parenting was worthwhile and fulfilling.
Factor One: Parents should have knowledge of how to appropriately respond to childcare.
For example, they should be able to understand why their baby is crying or how to stop their two-year-old from throwing a tantrum in the middle of the supermarket aisle.
Factor Two: Parents should be confident in their abilities to carry out these tasks. Of course, this only comes with experience and not something a new parent would be expected to succeed at from the start.
Factor Three: Parents should believe that their child will respond in an appropriate manner, and they have the support of family and friends in their parenting efforts.
This is also something that is learned through experience and careful management of the child.
The support of family has become a sore point for some new parents as grandparents don’t always agree with the methods that the parents are using to raise the child and deliberately undermine the parents.
These factors seem to be something that should be easy to learn, but this isn’t always the case.
Parents have so many responsibilities and are confused by the many philosophies and pseudo-philosophies being propagated about parenting today that it’s understandable how they can be overwhelmed by the demands of the crown.
How Parents Can Rectify Common Parenting Challenges
- Remember your role as a parent: You are an educator, guide, coach, limit-setter, and supporter. Your child should know that you provide unconditional love, but you have certain expectations of them that change as they get older.
- As a parent, you will never stop loving them, but loving them does not mean giving them whatever they want or letting them do what they wish. Loving them means saying no and meaning it, creating healthy age-appropriate expectations and upholding them, setting boundaries and putting reasonable consequences in place if those lines are crossed.
- Avoid oversharing: While a child might be an easy sounding board for issues in the home, parents should avoid oversharing issues in their relationships and homes at all costs. That does not mean that a parent should not be honest with a child if they hear parents talking about financial difficulties, for example, but the parent should respond in an appropriate way that reminds the child that they should not be concerned about the issue and their parents are handling it.
- Be connected with your child: Spend a lot of quality time with your child. It is of vital importance that parents leave the lines of communication open between themselves and their children. A child who trusts their mother or father is more likely to open up and approach their parents when they are in trouble or facing a crisis. That means the parent should get involved in school, go to sports games and concerts, take them to the movies, and support their hobbies.
- Self-efficacy: Parents who believe in themselves are going to do a better job. That means a parent knows that they are capable of the job that they are doing. This is understandably difficult for later generations that suffer from the strain of societal expectations, but self-belief is vital to good parenting. When parents are sure of themselves, this belief is transferred to their children and helps them promote and sustain the well-being of their child.
- Give yourself a break: Parenting is something that involves trial and error, and no parent is perfect from the start. Parents can and will make mistakes with everything: discipline, rules, expectations, and emotions, but that’s okay. Tomorrow is another day to try again. No one is born a great king; you only learn how to be one.
Without a doubt, heavy is the head that wears the crown…but that crown is worth it when you have a happy kingdom with subjects you can be proud of.