Parenting is one of the most difficult roles there is, full of challenges, frustrations, and constant self-evaluation. Most parents try to raise healthy, happy, well-adjusted, functioning kids. Apart from teachers, parents have significant influence on their children. Their actions and teachings form a major part of what children will do with their lives upon becoming adults. To inspire and help children develop skills that are crucial to leadership in later life, there are a number of things that parents can do.
BE AN EXAMPLE OF HOW TO LEARN FROM MISTAKES
Children will gravitate toward what they see their parents doing, not what they hear them say. Perfection is impossible, but it isn’t necessary. It is critical for children to witness that their parents have the sincere desire to continuously learn and admit to and learn from their mistakes. Being role models as parents will determine whether children will aspire to be leaders or followers.
GIVE THEM RESPONSIBILITIES AND CHORES EARLY ON
Allow children to take on as much responsibility and assign tasks when they are able to perform them. Giving children age-appropriate chores can start with getting toddlers to carry plastic dishes to the table, according to psychologist Barbara Cox. This encourages children to learn from both their successes and failures that can become learning opportunities. Cox also suggests that around the age of 8 to 10, have children pack their own suitcases, beginning with adult supervision. This teaches problem solving and allows them to build self-confidence as a result of taking on new challenges and succeeding. It also gives them the ability to develop problem-solving skills and build self-reliance when things don’t work out or go the way expected.
PLAY FAMILY GAMES AND ENCOURAGE TEAM-RELATED ACTIVITIES
One of the major leadership skills is learning to work with different kinds of people. An excellent way to develop this is to engage in family games and encourage children to participate in team activities of all kinds. This could be sports, music groups, drama, or any type of group that the child has a natural interest in. Learning to interact with and build people skills around as many kinds of people as possible will serve children well, regardless of what they pursue in the working world. For leadership roles, developing these skills is crucial.
ENCOURAGE AND PRAISE GENEROUSLY BUT AUTHENTICALLY
While children need encouragement and praise, it is crucial that praise is merited. Praise without any substance for the sole purpose of building a child’s self-esteem will have negative consequences later. Expecting the same type of praise when they go out into the world will be a rude awakening when they do not receive it.
DEVELOP THEIR EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE
Emotional intelligence is becoming increasingly important when it comes to choosing effective leaders. Helping children identify, express, and manage their emotions is a crucial part of helping them become healthy, functioning adults as well as increase their leadership potential. Talking about characters in a movie or television program with children is a good way to help identify emotions and develop an appreciation of their importance in life. When children have experienced a bad day, encourage them to talk about their feelings. Your role as the listener is to acknowledge their feelings, suggest other ways the problem could have been handled, and how to go forward. The child will feel heard and included in a circle of family trust.
TEACH THEM HOW TO DEAL WITH SETBACKS, FRUSTRATIONS, AND FAILURES
It is easy to stay positive and upbeat when things are going well and everything is turning up roses. However, successful people are those that find a way to keep moving forward despite setbacks and failures. Instead of focusing on the failure, children need to be praised for their efforts and taught to learn from failures and see it as a necessary part of eventual success. They need to understand and accept that failure does not diminish them in any way, and does not limit what they are capable of doing. A great way to do this is to tell them about highly successful people who persisted after numerous failures to eventually make major breakthroughs. Some examples would be the Wright brothers, Thomas Edison, J.K. Rowling, Oprah Winfrey, Steven Spielberg, Albert Einstein, Abraham Lincoln, Jerry Seinfeld, and Walt Disney.
MODEL AND ENCOURAGE A LOVE OF READING
Barry Zuckerman, professor at the Boston University School of Medicine, tells us that children who are exposed to books at a young age do better on a number of measures. They have a higher vocabulary, higher literacy, pay attention and concentrate better, and are better prepared to go into kindergarten. The ability to learn new things, set goals, and achieve them also gives children a tremendous boost of confidence that they will require if they move into leadership positions in their adult lives. It is never too early to involve children in reading. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents start reading out loud to their children from the time they are born.