8 Ways To Nurture Leadership In Young Children

“Mommy, I’m not a leader.”

Why do you say that?

“Because John is the one that tells us what to do on the playground and we follow him. So that makes me a follower.”

Ugh. Tricky. I’m not impressed by John’s “leadership.” I want my son (and all young children) to see kindness, listening, understanding, and caring about other people as important leadership qualities.

We must stop trying to over-simplify leadership for our kids. Being picked to be “line leader” at school, Mother May I, Simon says… all involve telling. Children learn to do what mommy, daddy, and teachers say. Sure, we want kids who listen and follow directions. But even young children can learn servant leadership.

8 Ways to Nurture Leadership in Children Under 8

Start with lots of love and building self-esteem. Too many grown-ups with power mess things up because they’re still dealing with childhood muck. Be a role model, and know they’re always watching. Beyond that, here are a few deliberate approaches for building leadership in young children.

  1. Teach them to give – Involve them in volunteer activities and talk about the “why” as much as the “what.” Help them look for needs in everyday situations, and to consider how they can improve the scene. Help young children find joy in giving and call it leadership.
  2. Talk to them like grown-ups – Young children are smarter than they look. Talk about current events. An 8-year-old may not need to know all the political issues involved with healthcare. But in our house we’ve had some pretty good conversations about what’s going on and why. Get them started, and kids can ask some pretty good “whys.”
  3. Give them a say in some family decisions – Pick some decisions where you don’t need control. Invite your young children to brainstorm creative options. Encourage each family member to listen to one another’s viewpoints before deciding as a family.
  4. Nurture a love of reading – Read together and talk about the characters and relationships in the stories. For a list of great books to read with your young children click here.
  5. Bring them along and give them a role – Kid’s love to see mommy and daddy in action. My older son’s now 19, I’ve brought him along to all kinds of places. I’ve explained what I’m doing and why. I’ve given him “important roles.” I’ve enjoyed watching him apply the skills he’s learned in the arenas he’s now leading. See A Great Way to Teach Your Kids About Leadership.
  6. Admit when you screw up – Talk about your leadership mess-ups. Kid’s need to know that leaders aren’t perfect, and that mistakes are all part of their learning.
  7. Hang out with other leaders – So they can see leaders are regular people too. Dinner guests can be fun for the whole family.
  8. Teach them to craft and deliver a great prayer (or toast) at family gatherings – When he was younger, I would help my son prepare group gathering prayers. “Let’s talk about why we’re gathered and what people may want God to hear.” Now I just give my 8-year-old the whisper that he’s going to be “on” and I’m amazed at what he comes up with. If your family is not into prayers, it works for meaningful toasts too.

If you enjoyed this post, or are a parent with young children, you can download my FREE ebook:  A Parent’s Guide to Leadership.

Making the Invisible, Visible For Our Children

How do we make the invisible, visible for our children? The next in our Saturday Series in developing leadership in kids. On Monday we return to our regular leadership fare.

A Guest Post from Sonia Di Maulo, Canada

Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others.Jonathan Swift 

Samuel picks up the slightest change in his environment. He senses that his mom needs a hug. And of course, mom is grateful. Later that afternoon, he deliberately annoys his little brother, and a mini-war ensues.

Samuel makes choices every day. At ten years old, sometimes he chooses well. What is it about his environment that leads him towards his choices?

Expectations

The connection he has with his mother is one of mutual trust, respect and love. In that environment, he is more in tune with the needs of the people around him. The connection he has with his brother has a heightened sense of competition added to the brotherly love. And so the same boy behaves differently in different situations.

As parents, how can we guide our children to align their words and actions to their values, independent of the environment? How can we help them infuse their surroundings with LIFE, based on LIFE-giving principles? With the ability to see the domino effect and to influence their future words and actions?

It starts with self-awareness.

A Dinner Activity: Making the Invisible, Visible

“Getting my kids to talk about the details of their days is hard enough”, you may be thinking, “How can I get them to increase their self-awareness to be able to see the connections that they affect everyday?”

At every dinnertime, I expect my kids to reflect on their days and to pick out one high point and one low point. This excellent game builds awareness of self and environment and boosts their ability to influence their future actions and words for the next daily report.

Game: High Point/Low Point

How to Play: Every member of the family shares the best part and lowest part of their day. Other family members listen and ask questions to get to the details.

Objective of the Game: Making visible, the lines that connect us all and increase self-awareness

Number of Players: 2 or more

Keys to Success: Consistent play every dinner time, make it fun, keep it short, show interest, encourage laughing and connection

Why Play? This game builds essential communication skills and cultivates family unity. It encourages:

  • Thinking about, selecting, and communicating emotional events in their day
  • Respectful listening to all members of the family
  • Conversation
  • Critical thinking and self-awareness
  • Building leadership skills from a very young age (as soon as they can speak, you can play)

We’ve been playing this game for years, at dinnertime, during vacations, and on road trips. We built variations on the theme and turned it into: “What was the favorite/least favorite part of your vacation, of the movie, of your field trip” and so on.

Try it with your family for a month and let me know how it goes.

Sonia Di Maulo M.A. ― founder, author, feedback enthusiast, speaker, performance improvement professional and creator of award-winning programs ― is passionate about helping leaders cultivate trust and collaboration.

This post is part of the Virtual Blog Book Tour for Sonia’s book, The Apple in the Orchard: A story about finding the courage to emerge. Discover the new vision for the world of work and get a glimpse into the power of living systems as models for sustainability, collaboration, and growth. Purchase your copy at www.theappleintheorchard.ca. Visit the other stops on the Book Tour on her Harvest Performance Blog.

 

What Dad Doesn't Say

The Dad Conversation Continues

Thanks to all who contributed to my last post Dad Says: Best Advice from Your Dads. For those who read closely, you may have noticed that I did not share any advice from my father. Why? Because he swears he doesn’t give it.

I have huge respect for his approach. He believes that “It’s hard enough to live your own life and you never know the full context”.

The truth is all of my siblings and all of his siblings know, if you need advice, just tell your story to Dad, and look at what his face says. He can’t really hide his pride or lack of enthusiasm. My brother Brad explains:

“The silence reads be thoughtful. Always. Consider the options, the implications, the people involved. the answer is somewhere in the middle.”

So for Fathers Day, Dad, share the top 10 things I learned from you 10 things I took away from advice not given.

10. Be patient

Oh yeah, still trying to learn that one. My sister, Jill, is a quicker study.

“I learned about exercising patience in teaching and finding new and creative ways to show others something that seems obvious. For him, it included hours of algebra and geometry on the coach. For me it comes in hand in speech therapy and with my own children.”

9. Go to church

Thanks so much for not caring about which church. A huge part of who I am came from growing up in a fantastic church community.And an important part of who I am becoming is influenced by the church I now attend.

8. Wear a wig

Mom was wary about me including this one, so let me explain. The fact that every year you would dress up at work for Halloween as whatever project you were working on (even after you were a senior leader) taught me a lot. Have fun at work. Take risks. Making people laugh builds teams. I now have a closet full of wigs that I happily wear and never regret.

7. Support people’s passions

You become genuinely interested in anything others are doing and support it full steam. Thank you for being the first subscriber to my blog.

6. Document the family story

I am amazed at the work you have put in to research and track the lineage, pictures and stories. Thanks for always being there with a camera to capture just what needs to be remembered.

5. Show up

Thanks for being REALLY available when we need you the most. Thanks for always digging in and helping at just the right time. I know hundreds of people would say this about you.

4. Try the less obvious next step

I learned that a career path can be complex that if you can lead people, take some risks and try things you know nothing about. How else does someone go from studying the mating habits of striped bass, to making power plants safer, to building space telescopes?

3. Fight for the underdog

You always fight like crazy with your words and actions. You make real sacrifices and invest in others. And mostly, in a subtle and elegant way. Never looking for credit for your contributions.

2. Have an opinion

You always have one and it is always passionate. And you are very careful about how you share it.

see http://www.isoclarity.org/

1. Do it well

Everything. Always.

Thanks Dad. I learn from you every day. 

What Dad Doesn’t Say

The Dad Conversation Continues

Thanks to all who contributed to my last post Dad Says: Best Advice from Your Dads. For those who read closely, you may have noticed that I did not share any advice from my father. Why? Because he swears he doesn’t give it.

I have huge respect for his approach. He believes that “It’s hard enough to live your own life and you never know the full context”.

The truth is all of my siblings and all of his siblings know, if you need advice, just tell your story to Dad, and look at what his face says. He can’t really hide his pride or lack of enthusiasm. My brother Brad explains:

“The silence reads be thoughtful. Always. Consider the options, the implications, the people involved. the answer is somewhere in the middle.”

So for Fathers Day, Dad, share the top 10 things I learned from you 10 things I took away from advice not given.

10. Be patient

Oh yeah, still trying to learn that one. My sister, Jill, is a quicker study.

“I learned about exercising patience in teaching and finding new and creative ways to show others something that seems obvious. For him, it included hours of algebra and geometry on the coach. For me it comes in hand in speech therapy and with my own children.”

9. Go to church

Thanks so much for not caring about which church. A huge part of who I am came from growing up in a fantastic church community.And an important part of who I am becoming is influenced by the church I now attend.

8. Wear a wig

Mom was wary about me including this one, so let me explain. The fact that every year you would dress up at work for Halloween as whatever project you were working on (even after you were a senior leader) taught me a lot. Have fun at work. Take risks. Making people laugh builds teams. I now have a closet full of wigs that I happily wear and never regret.

7. Support people’s passions

You become genuinely interested in anything others are doing and support it full steam. Thank you for being the first subscriber to my blog.

6. Document the family story

I am amazed at the work you have put in to research and track the lineage, pictures and stories. Thanks for always being there with a camera to capture just what needs to be remembered.

5. Show up

Thanks for being REALLY available when we need you the most. Thanks for always digging in and helping at just the right time. I know hundreds of people would say this about you.

4. Try the less obvious next step

I learned that a career path can be complex that if you can lead people, take some risks and try things you know nothing about. How else does someone go from studying the mating habits of striped bass, to making power plants safer, to building space telescopes?

3. Fight for the underdog

You always fight like crazy with your words and actions. You make real sacrifices and invest in others. And mostly, in a subtle and elegant way. Never looking for credit for your contributions.

2. Have an opinion

You always have one and it is always passionate. And you are very careful about how you share it.

see http://www.isoclarity.org/

1. Do it well

Everything. Always.

Thanks Dad. I learn from you every day. 

Dad Says: Best Advice From YOUR Dads

In the spirit of Fathers Day, my son Ben (17) and I set out to collect as much fatherly advice as we could in a week. We asked everyone we knew or ran into friends, work, school, church, airports, restaurants, and random encounters “what’s the best advice you ever got from your dad?”

The question also became a conversation piece in a wide variety of contexts and our whole family got involved. We had people talking about this in team-builders, men’s breakfasts, church meetings, fire stations, summer camps, executive dinners, knitting groups and through our social networks. One friend got so engaged in the process he collected responses from 4 generations of family.

Sebastian (6) also got into the game, taking his own notes “be a taim plare (be a team player)” and “folo yor hirt (follow your heart).”

Ben and Mom’s Top Picks

  1. Don’t listen to your father (Karin’s Dad, from his Dad, MD)
  2. Have faith– but there is no RIGHT faith (Ben’s friend, Matthew who collected 4 generations of advice, MA)
  3. Proper Prior Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance (Sean, our waiter, CA)

We received hundreds of responses from 5 countries.

The folks we talked to fell into 3 clusters:

  • the eager to engage

About two third of the folks we asked were excited to engage, and had compelling and interesting stories that came along with their advice. A few got choked up, as did we more than once in the process

  • those who preferred not to talk

MANY others had almost the opposite reaction. In these cases our questions were answered with silence or a quick attempt to change the subject. This was the most troubling and surprising part of this process

  • and “gee, my dad didn’t SAY a lot but showed a lot in his DOING

Our favorite was from Magesh in India “he once helped a poor child in the area by paying for him to have a heart operation. I sure learned a lot from him.”

“Sorry Ben. This is one that I can’t contribute to. Not many words were passed from my Dad to me that would fall into your category.
The only thing that I can share is, don’t let it happen to you- always talk to your kids and encourage them without shouting or threatening.
Love you guy”.

So when Dads DO talk what do they say?

Top Topics (and some good -or fun- examples)

Tried and True (19%)

“Do unto others”

“Don’t sweat the small stuff”

“Measure twice, cut once”

School & Knowledge (14%)

“If you don’t ask, you won’t know”

“Girls are just as good in math as boys”

“Never listen to the damn doctor”

How to Be and Improve (11%)

 ” Du kannst dich drehen und wenden wie du willst, der Arsch bleibt immer hinten” ( you can turn around as much as you want, the ass always stays in back)

“Figure out what people need and give it to them”

“Names are important. Really important. Never bluff. Ask again”

“As you know, my parents escaped from Vietnam to come to America. The one advice that my father gave me that stays with me is Ask yourself what you would do if you were not afraid My parents taught me to not let fear stop you, but rather move you.”

Dreams, Inspiration and Spirituality (11%)

“Believe in yourself and continue to inspire others the way you inspire me”

“Put your effort and time into the things you love doing”

“Talent is handy, it’s not essential”

Integrity and Respect (10%)

“Strive to always tell the truth, regardless of the consequences”

“Don’t worry about what others say if you are doing it for the right reasons”

“Be honest, open and upfront about anything and everything. You may not be liked today, however you will be respected tomorrow.

Relationships and Dating (9%)

“Girls like to be kissed”

“If you want your wife to be pretty, you’d better clean your plate. When you leave bits of food all over your plate, that’s what your wife’s face will look like.”

“Marry this one”

Family (8%)

“What did your mother say?”

(If I spoke rudely) “Mom is your mother, but she is my wife don’t forget that”

“Find something specific about your daughter to like every day. Let her know you found it”

Sports (7%)

“Don’t throw like a girl”

“Whenever possible, throw strikes”

“When in doubt, grab a glove and go out back”

The Basics: Finances, Food and Drink (6%)

“Cheese and crackers and a beer make a nice snack”

“Don’t complain about your weight while eating a snickers bar”

“Never walk over a penny”

Cars and Driving (5%)

“Don’t date a man with bald tires on his car”

“Always remember where you parked your car”

“Turn your head when you change lanes”

Thanks, Dads. Happy Fathers Day.

Namaste,

Karin and Ben

Please let us know your Dad’s best advice