I want every little girl who’s told she’s bossy to be told instead she has leadership skills. — Sheryl Sandberg
Did you know that children are capable of developing leadership skills and leadership qualities as early as their preschool years? Children may not follow your advice very well, but they sure follow your example! Be the leader that you want your children to be and get them ready to be the future leaders. Here are some principles and strategies that can help children develop the leadership skills they need to take charge of their lives and be the positive influencers for others.
Let’s first discuss the basic principles of leadership and how they translate to young children:
1. Developing emotional intelligence is the basis for sound leadership.
Young children are capable of accurately identifying specific feelings in themselves and others, but may have difficulty processing their feelings or dealing with the emotions of others. Teaching children how to manage their feelings constructively will help them solve emotional issues more easily, develop healthy relationships with others, and recognize and avoid destructive behavior.
2. Generating compassion has a positive impact on society. By helping children recognize that we are all connected, we teach them the importance of caring for others as we would care for ourselves. Compassionate children will better understand that the purpose of becoming an influential leader is not to control but to have a positive impact on society.
3. Taking charge of your life is empowering. When we allow children to take an active role in making things happen, they develop an understanding that they can create their own outcomes. This will empower them as they grow to view life not simply as something that happens to them, but as something they are capable of shaping through effort and determination.
Now, let’s discuss some strategies you can use to instill those basic leadership principles in your children:
1. Develop their ability to recognize and read facial expressions. Recognizing non-verbal cues is an invaluable real world skill that children can develop very early on. Without the ability to properly identify what emotions you are dealing with, you cannot effectively manage them. You can help your child develop this skill by playing games that involve making facial expressions, drawing pictures related to facial expressions and emotions, and talking with them about how a person may look different in different situations such as being surprised by a loud noise versus preparing to open a birthday present. You can also talk to your children about how to deal with the emotions of others, such as discussing what would be an appropriate way to respond to another child who doesn’t want to share a toy.
2. Teach positive and effective communication by choosing your words carefully. Children pick up and mimic our speech patterns and the words we use whether we realize it or not! Encourage your children to select positive words that convey affection for others when they are speaking to others and set a good example for that type of speech. You can help them practice this skill by engaging your children in conversations about what they think about their friends or siblings or teachers and guide them away from using negative or hurtful speech and toward a more positive and constructive framework for communicating those opinions.
3. Emphasize the importance of teamwork. While it is important to raise independent children, it is also important to develop the ability to work with others. Teamwork is an invaluable part of life and a skill that even adults seek to strengthen in order to enhance their personal and professional relationships. Spend some time doing team activities with your child such as washing dishes or picking up toys together or playing team games such as charades or softball with friends and family. By demonstrating to your child that it can be fun as well as effective to cooperate with others, they will gain the confidence they need to perform well in social situations.
4. Teach good manners through example. Just as children mimic our speech patterns and word choices, they also mimic our behavioral habits. Children look to their parents and parental figures in order to figure out how to navigate the world, so if we are not setting good examples, we cannot expect our young children to know what behavior is appropriate for the situation. Praise your children for using basic table manners and for being polite and respectful to guests in your home and always strive to exhibit the type of behavior that you want to see your children exhibit.
Children who are able to constructively manage their behavior and their feelings and get along with others are more likely to achieve happiness and will have more opportunities for success. They will have the skills to create a positive environment among their peers and in turn create a better life for themselves overall. By helping your young child build leadership skills now, you are essentially helping them create the foundation that will help them succeed in all aspects of their lives as they grow and progress.
If you have any questions or need additional guidance on ways to help your young child develop leadership skills, please get in touch and I will share with you some additional resources and insights. Stay tuned for next week’s post wherein I will discuss building leadership qualities in pre-teens and teenagers!