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Leading kids and helping them to lead

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There’s a lot of talk these days about leadership, and the need for kids to have strong leaders. Whether you are working with children who are yours or you’re a caretaker for others’ children, learning how to lead them effectively is important.

Whether you’re wanting to lead your kids to practice a healthy lifestyle, increase communication, or something else, good leadership is a way to reach your goals with the children in your care.

But how do you become a good leader for kids? It can be hard to know if you’re not accustomed to it, or if you didn’t have strong leaders when you were a child. Here are some tips.

Set the example

You’ve probably heard “lead by example,” but that means more than just doing something and hoping your kids will notice and copy your behavior. It also means being deliberate in setting an example, and you’ll need to refrain from certain behaviors and watch what you say.

For instance, if you want your children to be patient with others – a key leadership attribute – then take care that you’re patient with them. If you want your children to be able to make decisions like a leader, then make sure you’re not making all of their decisions for them. To lead by example, you need to think about more than just living out healthy, positive lifestyle choices (although that’s important, too). It’s also a matter of setting an example of how to treat others.

Be inclusive

Whether you are a teacher or a parent, including the children in your care is important to instill leadership. How do you include them? For one thing, let them help. In the classroom, this might take the form of collecting papers and passing out other papers. Students might be allowed to write an assignment on the board. At home, let your kids be a part of your daily routine, helping you wash the car and clean the house. After all, these are life skills, and those are vital for good leadership.

Delegate

Good leaders know how to delegate responsibilities and tasks. In your home or classroom, give kids various responsibilities. You can set things up so that the children in your care have a task to complete, and they have to delegate tasks to others to get it done. Or simply explain the task, and give a job to each child to get it done. They will see the value of delegating (you might want to point out that you can’t do this task alone), but they will also have the satisfaction of helping get something done.

Encourage kids to help others

Wherever you can, let your kids help each other without being bossy. In fact, being bossy is not necessarily a good leadership skill. Teach them how to help others in an appropriate way, and then set up a scenario where that help can happen. This works in the classroom or at home with friends and/or siblings.

Leadership skills to teach kids

Help your child break out of the “cookie cutter” mentality by teaching him/her to think independently. Ask your kids’ opinions on things, and refrain from judging or expressing your opinion. Just listen so that no opinion is “wrong.” You might share your own opinion respectfully, and if it differs, all the better – part of independent thinking is hearing several sides of an issue and coming to your own conclusions.

Responsibility

Age-appropriate responsibilities are important skills for building leadership. Give your child responsibilities as early as you can, and have him deal with the consequences if those responsibilities are not carried out. Of course, your child needs guidance; but once your explain what the consequences will be, sources say it’s best to let them play out.

Fairness

Leaders need to be fair. Being too rigid and unbending is not a great way to teach your kids about fairness, but being too permissive isn’t, either. Help them to understand what is fair and what isn’t, and how sometimes being fair means being firm even when others are upset.

Negotiation

Have you thought about the importance of negotiation skills in leadership? Think about it: government leaders, particularly the president, need to be well-versed in the art of negotiation. So it’s okay to discuss your child’s wants and desires – ask him to present a convincing argument as to why he thinks he should have whatever it is, or participate in an activity. And sources agree that it’s okay for a parent to allow him/herself to be “talked into” something now and then!

Organization

Being organized is key to good leadership. Teach your children how to prioritize tasks and organize their time. Show them how to use calendars to keep things straight, and explain how time is organized by prioritizing tasks.

In the category of organization is also the concept of making lists. Have your kids make lists of what tasks they plan to complete each day and/or week. This also helps break tasks down into steps – maybe your child has a research paper due three weeks from now. Helping your child break that down into weekly and daily steps can be very helpful – not only in accomplishing the completing of the paper, but also in instilling the leadership skill of organization.

Communication

This is essential for leadership. Leaders must express their goals and their vision for whatever project or task they are leading. They can’t expect others to read their minds! Teach your kids good communication and listening skills by encouraging them to share their thoughts even if you disagree, and by actively listening yourself.

See also:

Leading teens and teaching them to lead
Five signs your child is a leader
Applying effective leadership

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