On the day your child starts kindergarten . . . Err, on the day your son turns one . . . No, on the day your daughter is born . . . Okay, on the day you realize you’re going to be a parent, you think to yourself: This baby will be so sweet, kind, and smart—a leader among peers!
As they grow, your thoughts grow with them. Yes, a leader! He’s destined to lead!
And so you remind your son or daughter regularly. You say, “Be a leader.” Then you secretly hope it clicks through the power of osmosis. And yet, they disappoint you. He’s only a kid after all. She’s just a little girl.
Rest assured, moms and dads, you can use these moments to encourage leadership in your children. You may even find that specific points of learning are more effective than generic reminders. A few examples are below. Please share your experience in the comments!
You can lead by serving.
Situation: Your oldest daughter tugs on your pants while you’re cooking. “Mom!” she says with a whine. “Billy won’t pick up his toys and you said he had to clean his room before dinner!”
Teachable moment: Sure, she’s technically right. But this is your chance to turn tattling into leading.
You might say, “I have an idea! You’re great at picking up your toys, and Billy’s young so he’s still learning. Why don’t you head to his room and help him get started? You can show him what to do and make it fun!” When they return, room clean, brag on your son and thank your daughter. They’ll both be proud of the work they accomplished.
Lesson learned: A servant leader does what’s best for others and isn’t concerned with taking credit.
You can lead by being courageous.
Situation: You meet your son at the bus stop only to find him and his friends harassing a younger boy. Your son doesn’t say much, but he laughs along, growing quiet only when he sees you.
Teachable moment: This is a classic coming-of-age occurrence. We all remember a time when we wanted to stop an injustice but didn’t. Most likely, your son’s heart is in the right place, he just needs encouragement to speak up.
On the walk home, talk to him about how he felt and what he was thinking at the bus stop. Does he regret making fun of the younger boy? Does he think any of his friends feel bad too? Strategize a response for the next time this happens. Have your son practice speaking up and teach him to be both bold and kind.
Lesson learned: Standing up for what’s right, even when it’s scary, is what courageous leaders do.
You can lead by thinking.
Situation: Your kids wake up complaining. It’s the end of summer and they’re clearly not satisfied with the day’s agenda. You probe a little further and discover they’ve been frustrated for weeks.
Teachable moment: Before you launch into a “life’s not fair” speech, consider teaching your kids about the role they play in vision casting.
Grab a calendar and count the days left before school starts back. Ask your kids to spend the morning thinking about what they’d like to do with that time. Clarify that money is an object, and their every demand will not be met. Still, prompt them to dream big and silly dreams. Once a list is made, meet as a family to discuss their vision and to make a realistic plan. Try to find a good balance of activities that are fun, productive or helpful.
Lesson learned: A good leader recognizes his responsibility to dream and to share his goals with others.
Leadership takes on so many different forms. It really is possible for all of our kids to be leaders in one way or another. Look for opportunities to encourage this trait while your children are young. The older you—you know, the one dropping your baby off at college—says thanks.