Every child is a potential leader. Even if they weren’t “born” leaders, they may be taught to become them by parents, teachers and other role models.
Leaders are people who have the ability to empower others to get things done. They inspire other people and set the directions to create something new. It isn’t about being at the top of a hierarchy, but about forging a path forward in collaboration with others.
So what personal qualities and skills could make your kid a great leader? There isn’t an exact answer. It all depends on personality and surroundings. For instance, some children are more confident than others, but that doesn’t make them a leader. As a parent, you play a huge part in helping your child develop the ability to lead.
It’s important to start teaching these skills to both girls and boys at a young age as kids internalize gender stereotypes about their potential early on. For example, 36% of girls in grade 6 say they're self-confident, while only 14% of girls in grade 10 do. According to recent research many girls start to doubt their intelligence and abilities as young as 6 years old!
With that in mind, here are 5 tips to help kids learn leadership skills:
- Teach respect
Kids aren’t born with an innate sense of respect for others – they need to be taught. Watch carefully their deeds – and your own – and analyze them. A polite word, an empathetic response, or a firm stand in the face of wrong can have a huge influence on a child. Discuss respectful and disrespectful language and behaviours, and the impact these can have on others and themself. Do this often to help your child learn empathy, consequences and a sense of responsibility.
- Teach problem-solving and perseverance
There are no insurmountable obstacles. Teach kids that if they fail the first time, it’s a chance to try again. Help them ask questions about what might be holding them back, how they could look at things differently, what other strategies they might try, and let them learn through trial and error. It’s important for kids to recognize that just because they failed to accomplish something doesn’t mean that they are a failure. Reward the effort, not just the result.
- Teach through positive reinforcement
Kids tend to be externally motivated by things they want or enjoy, so if they are rewarded regardless of how they behave it’s difficult for them to understand the consequences of their actions. Reward good decisions and positive attitudes and intentions. These rewards don’t have to be material or grand, they can include praise, recognition, or extra time doing something they love.
- Teach creativity
Teach your kids to explore. Find interesting tasks for your kids to develop imagination. Read absorbing stories, paint, draw and mold artistic projects using generic materials, do science experiments together, and wonder at the natural world. Being creative is fun and opens their mind to a world of new possibilities. But don’t forget to see where they seem to thrive most and look for leadership opportunities there too!
- Teach independence as well as teamwork
If your kids have suddenly become very confident of what they want to do, congratulations: it's a sign that they are growing up and recognizing their own interests and skills! Help foster this sense of independence, but also teach the benefits of teamwork. Create a list of tasks your kid can perform by themselves, whether it’s chores or hobbies. Allowing them to accomplish things on their own and contribute to your household will help them realize their abilities and learn to cooperate with others.
The benefits of leadership skills are numerous! With self-confidence, communication skills, the ability to plan, organize, delegate, manage conflicts, accept differences in people and their opinions, kids will achieve success in their day-to-day, academic and future professional life.
- Have you seen the #GirlPowered messages on www.girlpowered.ca? Share your favourites online and with the girls in your life!
- Sign up for our e-newsletter to have our latest stories and resources sent to your inbox.
- Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to join a national conversation on empowering girls.