“Who is going to lead?” My younger two kids just asked if they can play outside. They’re great kids, but if their older brother isn’t with them, these two often wind up in trouble with their shenanigans. I always ask which one wants to lead because I want one of them to volunteer to take on the weight of leadership when I’m not around.
Leading sounds fun when it means you get to be the boss, but leadership is different than just telling people what to do. Even if you don’t need your children to be CEOs, leadership skills can help them gain confidence and think for themselves. Here are 5 ideas if you want to know how to teach your children leadership.
Help them see their commitments through.
My son volunteered to help in the toddler class at our church. When the time came, he asked if it was too late to back out. He didn’t want to do it anymore. I could have told him he didn’t have to go, but he made the commitment to be there. He had to go! He was bummed, but I reminded him that by the time it was over, he’d be glad he followed through. And he was. If you want to know how to teach your children leadership, help them honor their commitments.
Encourage them to take initiative.
While surprising me with a clean kitchen, my daughter was putting some dishes away and broke my favorite mug. I was so disappointed, but also so impressed with her initiative to help me clean up! To encourage her to continue taking that kind of initiative, I had to shrug off the disappointment over my broken mug and praise her for trying. Sometimes taking the lead means making mistakes, but mistakes provide opportunities to learn.
Take advice from other leaders.
If you want your children to learn leadership, teach them to listen to wise people. Other leaders have made mistakes that the rest of us can learn from. In the example of my daughter’s mistake with breaking my mug, she could have listened to the advice of her older brother who told her to get a stool in order to reach as high as she was trying to reach. Taking advice from other leaders takes a good amount of humility, but it will develop a teachable heart that makes it easier for others to follow.
Teach them to let others go first.
It doesn’t matter what it is. If I tell all three of my kids to do something, it turns into a race to see who will do it first. When I offer them a treat, they make a beeline for the kitchen pushing each other out of the way. So, I started treating the person who got there first, last. Cue all the “That’s not fair!” arguments. But I want to teach them that allowing others to go first can help them observe and learn. And a true leader will sacrifice for the rest of the team, not insist on being number one.
Do jobs you don’t want to do.
If my kids see me sweeping, they’ll ask me if they can mop. It’s a sweet gesture, but if the answer is, “No, but can you help me unload the dishwasher?” I get all the eye rolls. Mopping, for whatever reason, is more fun than unloading the dishwasher. They take initiative to do jobs they want to do but give attitude when it’s something they don’t want to do. I’ve begun correcting them by saying, “Instead of ‘Can I mop?’ try, ‘What can I do to help?'” Wording this question differently changes their focus from what they want to do to what needs to be done. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe said it perfectly: “Cease endlessly striving for what you would like to do and learn to love what must be done.”
What is your best leadership advice for your kids?