We have all heard the familiar phrase ” If Tommy jumped off a cliff, would you?” It’s the not so subtle way that parents try to determine weather or not their children are influencing others or are being influenced. We all want our kids to rise above the rest, to show their greatness to their peer group, especially since studies suggest that children who lead rather than follow have a greater chance of success in the future. To make things easier, I have compiled some ways that parents can help their children develop those leadership skills and perhaps strengthen their own along the way.
1 Communication – This is a skill that should start being taught as early as possible. Work on reading, speaking, pronunciation, and expression of ideas. Try not to accept “I don’t know” as an answer. Instead, process through an idea with your child. Decide if your child doesn’t understand the idea or if they believe their opinion is not good enough. Either way, an uncertain child needs to learn confidence in order to be a good leader.
2. Independence – A five year old probably can’t make his own omelet, but he should be able to pour his own cereal, set the table for a meal, make his own bed and definitely choose his own outfit for school. Challenge your children to be independent, and try not to intervene when your child makes a mistake. let them process it. If they pour Capt. Crunch instead of Honey Bunch; let them eat Capt. Crunch. Next time, the child is likely to be more aware of what he is doing, thus building those independent thinking skills. Also, encourage independent play. If your child says those familiar words “I’m Bored”, then direct them to interactive, yet simple toys such as building sets. This will entertain them without distracting or taking away from their creativity.
3. Team Work – A good way to teach team work to a child is by explaining that more hands make a heavy load much lighter. you can even model this by filling a box with stones and then ask your child to lift the box alone. When he struggles with it, you can then show him that with help, the box is lighter. Another great way to help children learn the importance of team work is by introducing them to organized sports. Not only will your child learn team work, but they also has a chance at becoming a real leader on the field.
4. Compromise & Negotiation – This one almost seems to go against what we think we should be teaching our kids. Somehow we expect our kids to go through their child hood without ever questioning us; obeying orders on command, much like a Golden Retriever might. Trouble is, kids need to learn appropriate boundaries, while having the freedom to express their own ideologies on a subject or matter that concerns them. Of course, there cant be much compromise or negotiation on some matters, but there are plenty of other opportunities help our kids build these skills.
Be willing to listen to your children when they speak, and take their feelings into consideration before you answer; don’t scoff, laugh, or call their ideas stupid if you don’t agree with what they say. After all, a child who is comfortable speaking up (appropriately) will grow into an adult who is comfortable in speaking up.
5. Decision making – Even from an early age, kids can start making decisions. Some will be good and others bad, but the important thing is to allow the child to deal with his decision. Praise your child’s attempt at decision making even if its not a choice you would have chosen. you can always process with your child by asking why they chose the way they did and if their choice had the desired effect. Of course, safety decisions are not much of an option, but again, there are plenty of ways a child can begin making decisions.
These are just a few ways that parents can help their children develop their leadership skills. Even if your kids don’t get it just yet, they will eventually. It doesn’t have to be a secret, in fact you should tell them. “I want you to be a leader in life and we are going to work on it together”. Don’t let them quit on themselves and one day they will thank you for it.