As parents and caregivers, we often want to create an environment at home that will be conducive to instilling leadership. But how?
Instilling leadership can take many forms, and of course your individual family dynamic comes into play. But generally speaking, here are some tips on how to create a home environment that fosters leadership in your children.
Routine is important
You may think that having a routine is creating followers by telling them what to do and when to do it. But actually, having a routine is purported to encourage leadership, because it provides security and a model of order and predictability. A good leader is not fickle – he or she is self-controlled and fairly predictable, so that those who are followers are certain of where they’re going.
Routines also teach organization, another important leadership skill. Organizing time is crucial if your kids are going to grow up to inspire others to follow. Include your kids in the development of your schedule and calendar, and show them how time is organized and tasks and activities are prioritized.
As leaders, your kids will need to be able to define and enforce boundaries. Having clear boundaries in your home helps make expectations clear and lets your kids know how far they can go before they cross over. They will learn how to be fair and firm when boundaries are crossed, especially if you take care to consider the situation before enacting consequences. Not all boundary violations are the same, in other words.
To be good leaders, kids need to learn when to be firm (such as when a boundary is blatantly ignored) and when to be lenient (such as when a boundary is crossed accidentally). Including your kids when you develop boundaries and consequences is another way to create a leader-building environment.
When your kids do a job well, let them know. Give them positive feedback so they will learn how to give it themselves when they grow up to be leaders. A good leader knows when to pat followers on the back and appreciate their efforts.
Yes, having chore lists is something that parents may dread, or they may have heard about it and just don’t think it will “fly” in their family. But chores are one of the first ways that kids learn to be a part of the family “team,” and being part of a team is an important way to learn leadership.
Chores can be delegated depending on age and ability, and you can certainly include your kids in making the chore list. To keep motivation, have rewards for chores that are done well and on time. In fact, chores can be a way to earn privileges – your chore list can have two columns, one for chores and one for the privileges each chore earns.
There are all sorts of things you can do to build a home environment that fosters leadership. Don’t be afraid to be creative, and remember to include your kids and give them age-appropriate responsibilities.
It starts at home
It’s been said that leadership starts at home. It just may be that leadership is, at least in part, an outgrowth of early training. There is disagreement among experts as to just how much leadership is inborn and just how much is learned, and there is really no way to settle that disagreement. It’s likely that it’s a combination of learning and natural ability.
If you’d like to do what you can to raise your children to be good leaders, here are some tips that may help.
Some sources point out that the school system, public and private, teaches kids what to think rather than how to think. Of course, there are probably exceptions to this – special schools and special teachers – but it’s entirely possible that your kids are not being taught how to think. So whether you homeschool or have your kids in public school, you might try some of these exercises to help your kids think on their own.
- Give them an age-appropriate reading assignment that expresses a particular point of view. An opinion piece in the newspaper is a good place to start. Ask what your child thinks about it, and have him or her write an age-appropriate response to the piece. Do the same thing with an article that expresses the opposite or a different view.
- Encourage them to read work that covers a range of opinions and views.
- Ask them if they agree or disagree, and why.
- Any time your child reads something, ask him (or her) what he thinks about it. Find out what he gleaned from the reading rather than finding out if he picked up what she was “supposed to” from the reading.
Leaders tend to be independent thinkers, so these exercises may go a long way toward teaching your child to be a good leader.
This may be something of a challenge for parents who aren’t that organized to begin with! And for those parents who are very organized, you might find that you just organize everything for your kids without teaching them to do it themselves. So finding a balance is a good idea.
Try giving them a calendar and show them how to keep track of their own activities. Chore lists are also a good way to help them organize their time. Age-appropriate chores and activities, written on a calendar, can help kids “see” their time and how it’s being spent, even if they are too young to tell time yet.
Ask for arguments
Okay, call it discussion if you prefer, and yes that may sound like something parents don’t want to do. But the art of arguing respectfully is an important leadership quality. We’re not talking about angry arguments; it’s more about negotiation and persuasion. Ask your child to tell you why he (she) wants a certain thing, or why he should be allowed to attend an event or participate in an activity. This helps your children learn how to analyze and present an argument (which is really a list of reasons) to achieve a goal.