Is it important to harness the leadership skills of a child at a very young age? This question struck me as an appropriate one when my son, aged 7, asked me “Mama, our section is having an election and I’m afraid they would elect me to be one of the class officers. What do class officers do? Should I become one?”
My mentor, a child development psychology expert, has always emphasized the importance of responding (correctly) to what she refers to as “teachable moments” for parents and their kids. According to Steven Carr, one of the most important skills we should nurture as parents is the ability to recognize and capitalize on “teachable moments” in everyday life.
Said moments can happen almost anywhere and anytime with your kid. I experienced being caught unguarded by my son (a lot of times) with his confused questions about the world around him and life in general. Sometimes, I did well; sometimes, I was unable to respond at all which made me feel very depressed that I again allowed the opportunity of a ‘teachable moment’ passed.
Carr said that “chances are, many of the valuable moral lessons that we learned from our parents as a child were not consciously taught at all. They were rather learned in the midst of casual moments of real life, just as our children’s real lessons come from being, living and interacting with us in a hundred different ways we could never predict in advance.” The gravity of teaching our children the truths about life and their ‘person’ lies on our hands and as much as we can, we should be prepared about handling correctly our kids‘ teachable moments so we can assist them in understanding better humanity and not add to their confusion.
Remembering all these about the importance of seizing one of my son’s teachable moments, I explained to him the roles class officers play in the school. More questions were fired up and we had a wonderful, productive discussion. What we emphasized to him was he should be grateful that he is being looked upon by his classmates and teachers as one of the most responsible students in the class if ever he gets elected. When he came home from school the next day, he pronounced he was voted as the class’ public relations officer (P.R.O.).
It was our turn to congratulate our son for a job well done. He is a young leader and I can see that in him. He is active, vocal and a quick-thinker, a born leader I would say. It is our task as parents to properly nurture his leadership qualities to help him grow it into full bloom. Being a youth leader myself, I know how my leadership qualities helped me achieved my career goals and even in playing successfully my roles as a parent, a family member, and as a community player.
After establishing the importance of developing leadership in our children, the next question would be “how do we develop then our kids’ leadership skills?” Here is a leadership guide for kids which ideas I initially picked up from leadership-tools.com:
1. Teach them the “golden rule” — do unto others as you would have them do unto you. As a trainer and educator, it has always been in my rule book to always teach my students and participants the virtue of appreciation and respect for others. Our kids must understand that every person is unique, grow up in different environments, and experience varied circumstances in life. That he/she must learn to see ‘where others are coming from’ so they would learn to understand and accept people for who they are.
2. Teach them the importance of effective communication. Among a leader’s vital skills is his ability to clearly and effectively communicate his ideas. It is critical for us parents to develop this skill by encouraging an environment of openness of expression in our homes. At the same time, we should always stress to our children that effective communication requires listening skills. That to become effective communicator, they should learn to respect others when they are talking and sharing.
3. Teach them the virtue of teamwork and collaboration. A leader is a follower; a leader is a team player. Our kids must understand that leadership requires them to learn how to work in a team and get others motivated to work with them. This is an important social skill that may be taught first at home by having your kids share some simple household chores or by setting up activities which the whole family would engage in.
4. Teach them the importance of a ‘win-win’ situation. Kids must learn the virtue of negotiation and compromise or put simply, the art of ‘give and take’ to accomplish a task. For instance, at home, ask them to give up something in return of gaining something they wanted more. It is important that kids understand these two important lessons: that they cannot always get what they want; and that others have something to say too.
5. Teach them the skills of planning and strategizing. It is important to cultivate a child’s critical thinking skills. We should teach them to think carefully and weigh possible outcomes of their decisions and actions. We should also motivate them to not give up easily on a task at hand. By simple exercises such as asking them to list down their steps on how to get a better grade on Math or how to maintain a clean bedroom, you are already teaching him/her how to plan or strategize towards a desired outcome.
6. Motivate your child to be visionary. Help him better visualize through reading and listening to the tales of past achievers. From time to time, ask them about their goals and their ideas on how to achieve them. Do not discourage them or put down their ideas, recommend improvement instead.
7. Make them recognize and internalize the virtues of persistence and determination. Provide your child with a strong foundation of personal pride. As parents, our natural tendency is to be too protective, we immediately run over and shield our children from anything that may pose danger or inconvenience to them. Unknowingly, such mothering nature also makes our children feeble from pain and challenges. What we should teach them is how to stand up for themselves and finish what they have started so they would feel a sense of price and ownership for anything they would accomplish.
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