Dr Martin Seligman, the founder of positive psychology, joined a team of 55 international researchers in 2001, to research the question: “How can we help young people realise their full potential?” This led to research in what makes life worth living, how we experience a richer life, how we reach optimal well-being and how we can become the best version of ourselves. Thus followed three years of research, which resulted in the identification of the 24 character strengths used by mankind.
This series of blogs helps you understand the 24 scientifically proven character strengths, which help mankind’s wellbeing and quality of life across the globe.
Strength #3 Leadership
13 TIPS FOR FOSTERING LEADERSHIP IN YOUR CHILDREN
Every child has the potential to be a good leader, some skills may come naturally - while others can be encouraged through actions. Leaders:
- like to take charge and lead others
- are good at organising teamwork and motivate everyone in the group to work together
- are a good example to others and help others to get things done
- like to organise activities and make things happen
Here are 13 great tips to help you foster leadership skills in your child.
- Lead by example
This always comes into any recommendation I give! Children learn best by observation, by watching you they take it all in. So, if you model leadership skills – that’s what they’re going to learn! You can show leadership in parenting by: decision making, problem solving, good communication, active listening, a good work ethic, teamwork … Show the way!
- Practice decision making
Your child needs to learn, and be comfortable with, decision making as early as possible. This can be as simple as choosing what to wear in the morning, or which book to read at night. As they get older you can practice good decision making by tackling bigger decisions – and by learning how to choose from several options by weighing up the pros and cons – this could be choosing a weekend activity for the family, deciding on a weekly menu plan for the family, or something simple like deciding which film to watch on a rainy Sunday. If children get used to making decisions, however small, they are more likely to be confident decision makers.
- Teach perseverance
Don’t be a ‘Lawnmower Parent’ sweeping any problems or potential difficulties out of your child’s way at every opportunity! Allow your children to fail. One of the best lessons children can learn, is to not be afraid of failure. If failure is seen as an awful negative, then children will be afraid to try. Instead they need to learn that failure can be a positive – we learn from our failures, from disappointment, from losing. The important thing is not to let failure stop you – get up off the floor, dust yourself down and get back on that bike!
- Teach great communication
Communication skills are vital in any good leader. In fact, poor communication skills are often the marker of a bad leader! You can help teach confident communication early, by encouraging your child to have a voice, instead of ordering for them when you go out to eat, encourage your child to speak to the waiter/waitress themselves. Getting on a bus, your child can tell the driver where you are going and get the tickets. Any activity like this will help them gain confidence in themselves and be able to communicate what they need. It’s also important to teach that everyone has a right to be heard, and their opinion should be valued and considered. You can teach active listening by repeating back what children have said “So I heard that you don’t want to go to Leo’s house today, because he is sometimes unkind to you – is that right?” If we take the time to listen to our children, they will see that their words and ideas have value.
- Encourage team activities
When your child is very young, it is usually quite easy to spot the activities that they really enjoy participating in. Group activities like sport, singing, dance should be encouraged. These kinds of activities promote teamwork, which is an important part of leadership.
- Teach the importance of work
You can do this with your child from an early age. If your children see and hear that you have a strong work ethic yourself, this is a great example to them. If you talk about your work positively, get excited by what you have done today – your children will notice this. Helping others is an important part of leadership, children can be encouraged to help out around the home with chores, such as setting the dinner table, folding washing, putting away the shopping, making lunch … These early jobs can be essential to building leadership skills in our young children.
Every good leader understands the value of compromise. Instead of giving your children a firm “yes” or “no” to their request, make an offer and allow them to counter that offer. For instance, instead of saying “Yes” to a sleepover at a friend’s house, instead say “You can go, if your bedroom is tidied.” They might come back with “OK, but I can’t do it today, I’ll do it before the weekend, how’s that?” Understanding and using negotiation skills is a huge part of leadership.
- Game night!
Playing board games as a family teaches great leadership qualities. They are a way to practice teamwork and communication skills. Children learn to be a good sport and are not fazed by losing, games teach you to play by the rules, and also to think strategically. Plus – it’s a great bonding experience too!
- Value positivity
Always encourage your child to look at an obstacle or potential problem positively. Show them how to make efforts to overcome, push through, cope with, solve and keep a positive attitude.
- Have a project
Involving your child in family projects is so very valuable. It can be as simple as making a card for Grandma’s birthday or as complex as planning a weekend away or a holiday. Have a planning meeting, brainstorm ideas, assign tasks to be done, work together. These are all great ways to practice leadership skills.
- Teach kindness and empathy
If you model kindness and empathy yourself, chances are you’re your child will follow suit! Encourage an open mind and a giving heart. Give children experiences that teach them about diversity and inclusion. Show them the value of multiple perspectives and the importance of equality for all.
- Books, books, books!
Ok, as an author myself I admit to being a bit biased on this one! So many studies have shown the enormous benefits of reading for fun in early childhood, children who read have a greater intellectual progress across a variety of subjects. Young readers tend to learn more about the world, and a broad knowledge base is a great foundation for leadership.
- Teach integrity
Honesty and fairness are such important qualities in any leader, whether at work or in play. Someone who has strong principles and morals, and is prepared to stand by them in the face of adversity, shows great leadership skills. Lead by example, show your child your honesty and how you live by, and stand by, your own set of values.