Laying a sound academic foundation is only a part of raising well-rounded individuals. Shaping our kids to be leaders, givers, and problem solvers is essential as well! Leadership looks different in different kids. Some kids are quiet leaders and lead from the background. Some are more vocal and take on a more visible leadership role. It doesn’t matter how your child leads, as long as he is leading and setting a good example in character.
We, as adults, need to be searching out leadership opportunities for our children. There could be numerous opportunities throughout the day for our kids to take on a leadership role. When we are shaping younger kids, we need to try to give them opportunities to be successful and pick carefully what tasks we might ask them to perform. I’m not necessarily talking about academic time or tasks. Those are generally things that all children must tackle as they learn and grow. I’m talking about things outside of academics - things kids might find fun that they are not usually allowed to or asked to do. This might include cleaning the windows, cooking a meal, choosing the snack for the day, bathing the dog, using a power tool, you name it. If it is something your child has asked to do but you have yet to say yes, it might just be a leadership opportunity in the making! A leadership opportunity is a chance for your child to do a job or complete a task and find success while doing it. Why is this important? Our kids need opportunities throughout their day to practice and refine their leadership skills. This helps build responsibility, self-esteem, and problem-solving skills. It even helps to build confidence - as your child experiences success with the little things, he will grow in confidence and try more of the big things.
It is important for us to strategically pick these leadership opportunities so that our children can experience success. Now, there are times when our kids will fail, and need to fail, in order to grow. Those can be valuable experiences. But leadership opportunities provide growth as well.
They are equally important.
After choosing the job or task, give your child clear instructions on how to complete the task – then let go. Chances are the job will not be done the way you would like it to be done. (Trust me, I am speaking from experience!). A child is almost certainly going to leave out a detail or two. But you have “entrusted” her with an important task. Now it is time to allow her the opportunity to complete the task independently and shine!
I love seeing the looks on a child’s face - first, when I ask her to do a special job for me. But then, I love the look of pride on her face as she completes the task. Most of all, I love the way it builds confidence and independence and I love seeing the growth and maturity that can blossom from that.
While I believe that all kids can benefit from these types of leadership opportunities, I feel they are especially effective with kids who struggle behaviorally or socially. These opportunities give us a chance to “catch” them doing something “good” and reinforce that behavior through praise and encouragement.
Try to find leadership opportunities that will allow your child to excel in his or her areas of strength. Assign the task and then let them go! Regardless of whether or not your child struggles, these opportunities allow your child to experience the joy and pride that comes from a job well done. That intrinsic motivation is priceless and can be a more effective motivator than anything else we could ever provide.
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