Leadership training isn’t exclusive to adults. And in today’s online culture of “following” and digital profiles, it’s never too early to teach a child (aka digital native) how to think, act, communicate, and process information online with a leader’s perspective. Oh—and don’t get discouraged—they may roll their eyes when you start talking about lofty things like time management, goal-setting, and character but just keep talking. Someday you might be surprised at how much of what you said actually stuck!
7 tips to help boost your child’s leadership skills:
1. Read great books. Okay, getting your child to read leadership books may not generate cheers but how about an incentive attached like a weekend trip, a gas money card, or a gift card to a favorite clothing store? Try books like Sean Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens, Next-generation Leadership: A Toolkit for Those in Their Teens, Twenties, and Thirties, who Want to be Successful Leaders by William Byron, or Building Everyday Leadership in All Teens: Promoting Attitudes And Actions for Respect And Success by Mariam G. MacGregor.
2. Consistently meet. Sometimes a casual lunch or dinner, held consistently is the most valuable tool in a parent’s arsenal. Be intentional about discussing leadership qualities, analyzing a decision, or discussing a leadership book.
3. Own a quote. Have your teen choose a life quote that encompasses his goals as a leader. Memorize it and use it in everyday situations.
4. Create a vision statement. That’s right. Help your son or daughter create a statement that ties them to specific values and goals for the present and future. Go back to that statement often when making a big decision or working through a challenge. Post the vision statement somewhere it can be easily referenced.
5. Teach listening. One of the most powerful tools of leadership is listening. This can be a huge challenge for any child but with some guidance from an intentional parent, this leadership quality in a child can be a game changer. Model listening and teach kids how to listen and repeat back a conversation.
6. Be a role model. It’s one thing to discuss leadership and another thing to live it daily and then take the time to discuss your own leadership lessons with your child. Your child is watching your every move so be consistent with issues of integrity, responsibility, follow-through, and work-life balance. Also, identify others in your circles that are good leaders and hold them up as examples when applicable.
7. Issue challenges. When confronted with tough situations at school or with friendships, challenge your child to engage the situation like a leader. Ask provocative questions like: What is the truth here? What is the higher road? How can you be proactive? What kind of boundaries do you need to draw here?
Toni Birdsong is a Family Safety Evangelist to McAfee. You can find her on Twitter @McAfee_Family.