Teaching leadership skills is something every parent hopes to instill in their children. After all, helping children become leaders has many advantages. Kids that develop into leaders generally have a strong sense of self-esteem. Self-esteem provides kids with confidence and the drive to excel.
As we gear up for the back-to-school season, parents and children alike are saying goodbye to summer and preparing for the changes ahead. After over a year of virtual learning and hybrid classes due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many states have announced the return to in person learning. Returning to the in-person classroom will be a change for many, especially children who were young or new to school when the pandemic began.
However, many children are also eager to return to school. Sure, it’s bittersweet saying goodbye to summer, but being around peers again and having daily structure is something many children secretly miss, especially after such turbulent and unpredictable times. In addition to the structure and social aspects of in person learning, school also provides children with the opportunity to take on leadership roles, from leading class discussions and projects to taking on roles in extracurricular clubs and sports, these activities help strengthen and develop those crucial leadership skills. However, school is only one of the many avenues through which children can develop these skills. Perhaps more crucial, is what they are learning at home.
Nurturing and developing leadership skills at home
Many people may wonder: what makes some kids grow up to become great leaders while others grow into adulthood lacking the ability to organize a game of kickball?
Experts argue that certain children are natural born leaders. Some kids are born with an innate ability to take charge and execute on a vision they conceive in their minds. But those same experts also agree that leadership skills can be learned and need not be reserved for the lucky few born with the leadership gene. It is possible to develop leadership skills within all kids – and the earlier the lessons begin, the earlier they develop their leadership style.
Helping children become leaders has many advantages. Kids that develop into leaders generally have a strong sense of self-esteem. Self-esteem provides kids with confidence and the drive to excel.
Leaders also develop strong communication skills. As these young leaders accept greater and greater responsibility, they are required to interact with others. These interactions develop within them stronger-than-average communication abilities that assist them in other aspects of their lives.
Finally, developing leaders acquire the skill of negotiation and learn how to work with others. As these emerging leaders increase their leadership activity they are placed into situations that require collaboration and compromise – skills that are greatly valued.
- Make Leadership Part of Your Child’s Vocabulary: “Leadership is lifting a person’s vision to high sights, the raising of a person’s performance to a higher standard, the building of a personality beyond its normal limitations.” —Peter Drucker
If you’re going to help your child develop as a leader you need to describe what a leader is and does. The best way to do that is to make leadership a term that is used frequently to describe favorable traits. Conversations about leadership can originate when talking about the things other students did at school, the traits of characters in their favorite television shows, or the examples described in books they read or had read to them. Highlight leadership traits such as honesty, perseverance, kindness, creativity, intelligence, etc.
- Give Your Child Opportunities to Learn and Exercise Leadership: “All that is valuable in human society depends upon the opportunity for development accorded the individual.” – Albert Einstein
Leadership opportunities begin the moment at which your child begins to interact with other children. Beginning with preschool, through Boys Scouts/Girl Scouts to AYSO and Little League, and into cheerleading and science club – every day provides a venue for your child to put to use your leadership lessons. Be sure to observe as much as possible and provide feedback one-on-one. Remember to praise your child for exercising leadership.
- Set a Leadership Example: “Example is leadership.” – Albert Schweitzer
Leadership is best taught by example. Be sure to share your leadership experiences with your child. When possible, bring your child along to view you in action! If you volunteer at the local library, belong to the local Rotary Club or serve as an elected official, share your leadership experiences with your child to give your child something that links your conversations to the real world.
- Go Easy on Your Child: “Patience is necessary, and one cannot reap immediately where one has sown.” – Soren Kierkegaard
As your child gets older, peer pressure increases. While all parents wish that children would avoid any form of peer pressure, the reality is that they live in a very difficult world. As a parent developing a leader, what is most important is to monitor your child, communicate openly and describe their actions that may be inconsistent with the acts of a leader. Refer to your conversations regarding the traits of leaders. These conversations may become more difficult as your child grows and becomes more independent. Have faith and trust that your child will respond appropriately when outside of your influence.
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