Some kids are just natural leaders while most children develop leadership skills over time. Regardless of your child’s natural personality, at some point she will be put in some type of leadership position. Whether she’s a group leader in her classroom or he’s influencing his peers in the play yard, your child really should learn the best way to be an effective leader.
My husband and I have five children between us and they all have very different personalities. But one of the things we’ve always tried to do is to encourage our children to be the leader and not the follower. Now, this doesn’t mean that all of our children are extreme extroverts who ended up being Class President. But it does mean that we’ve encouraged them to always do their best to model what is right.
One of the things that I’m particularly proud of is that my children often encourage other children to be generous. They may have a hard time sharing with each other from time to time, but they generally seem to enjoy giving to others. And I’ve been told that they are good influences on many of their friends.
One of the things that I do to help my kids be leaders is to always give them a voice. I know some parents believe that children should be “seen and not heard” but I am totally opposed to that philosophy. If my children see something wrong, I encourage them to speak out. No, I don’t encourage them to be mean or inappropriate about it, but I do encourage them to speak up. This might be something that you want to adopt into your own parenting style as it truly helps kids build confidence to be leaders.
Creativity should also be encouraged. Let your kids bounce ideas off of you and do some role playing with them. This will help them be more confident in real life situations that require them to demonstrate leadership skills.
Encourage your kids to be good listeners. Good leadership starts with good listening. A friend of mine actually does regular “listening skills” exercises with her daughter. My friend chooses a topic and her daughter listens to what my friend is talking about for a few minutes before she is allowed to respond. They do this in half hour sessions a couple of times a week so that her daughter is comfortable being a leader who demonstrates active listening.
Encouraging collaboration for problem solving is another great way to teach your children how to be a good leader. Instead of making all of the decisions, have a family meeting and let the kids help come up with a strategy to solve a problem. Now of course the “problem” should be kid-friendly and can even be made up - don’t give your kids burdensome problems to find a solution to (i.e. financial issues, major life decisions, etc.). For example, you could have a house meeting when you’re about to paint a room and your little leaders can all collaborate to decide what color paint to purchase and how to go about getting the job done. Of course, you can hop in to steer the conversation when needed, but allow them to lead and collaborate.
My children are masterful at negotiation and I bet yours are too. Don’t discourage that trait. Of course they can’t always win a negotiation, but whenever possible, negotiate with your children. And encourage them to negotiate with their peers when they can’t see eye to eye. You’ll be teaching them some very important leadership skills.
There are many different ways that you can instill leadership skills into your children. Whatever approach you take, be sure that you spend time training your children to be leaders and not followers in life.