Building Little Leaders

Look at that! Cheerful little girl in glasses and formalwear sitting at the table and pointing awayWe all want to ‘fit in’ and be a part of the group, and children are no different from adults in this respect, with the exception that they often don’t have the skills to make sensible decisions.

This craving for acceptance can lead children to thoughtlessly and blindly follow the crowd. This is more so if they’ve hooked up with a powerful personality who tends to enjoy leading others astray.

It’s important to note, too, that a leader is very different from a kid with a big and powerful personality. Leadership is defined by making sensible decisions, organising and managing time, being self motivated and being comfortable in your own company.

Being big on character is more likely to be a cover for lack of confidence, low self esteem, and definitely lacking in leadership skills. Thus, learning leadership skills is extremely important. Not only does it aid with development of self esteem and concept of self, it encourages individuality, and enhances traits such as planning, self-motivation and productivity. It also allows a child to adequately determine the good or bad in certain behaviours and actions, and enable them to make reasonable decisions in the face of peer pressure. Providing them with leadership skills is the difference between them blindly following, and declining to participate without losing confidence or credibility with their peers.

Leadership skills can also enable them to decide to move on from a particular group, or have the confidence to take lead and take the group down a different path entirely.

In order to prepare a child to gain leadership skills, they need to understand not only right from wrong, but also where the boundaries lie; when it is okay to join in the fun the group are having, and when it crosses the line and they have to choose.

It helps if you can sit with them with the aid a roll of butchers paper and coloured crayons. Draw a line or a large circle, and brainstorm behaviours. Write the acceptable ones on one side of the line, or in the circle, and the less acceptable and bad behaviours on the other side/outside.

Another vital element is communication. It is important that your child learns to communicate adequately, and, no, a tantrum is not okay. Helping them to create sentences that they can calmly articulate is a great idea.

First up, however, it is important that you listen to them and give them the space to communicate with you. A child disagreeing with you is not necessarily disrespect. Having a tantrum and screaming at you is not going to help their cause, however.

Instead, not only encourage them to say something along the lines of “I’d like to speak now”, give them the space to say what’s on their mind. It’s okay for you to provide reasons why they must or can’t do something, and it doesn’t help build skills if you’re forever saying “because I said so!” Communicating with them effectively provides them with necessary information and a great role model for communication.

Allow them to have their say, assist with correcting words for better communication and release your little leader into the world to do good.