Help develop leadership skills in children
Leadership seems to be a bit of a Buzz word at the moment, everywhere I turn I see people in our community asking for support and advice on how to raise their children to be more resilient, confident leaders.
Some children appear to be a more natural leader, while others need guidance, practice, and time to hone these skills. Every child has the potential to become what ever they want to be and if that is a leader of them self or as a leader of others it is important as a community we support them as they grow and learn. If we support children's interest's and support them to negotiate social settings and group dynamics, they will learn to navigate tough decisions and resolve conflict or other difficult situations. As a community we need to believe in our young people's abilities to make positive changes in their community.
We asked seven people in our Wide Bay community who work with children every day; how parents, carers and educators may help develop leadership skills and qualities in our children? This is what they told us...
In my experience the best way to help children develop leadership skills and qualities are;
Firstly, set an example for them to follow. There are many definitions and styles of leadership, depending on what you want or expect in a leader it's easiest for children (anyone really) to learn by copying. As James Baldwin said "Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them."
Secondly, before they can be a good leader they should learn to be a good follower. The traits that we often admire in a good leader (things like empathy, integrity, honesty) are also the traits we like in our followers. A great place for parents/guardians to start with this is things like unpaid chores around the house (they don't pay you to wash their dishes, why pay them to wash yours?).
Thirdly, they need to have the opportunity to practice their leadership. A child that is given the chance to lead others by making limited and supervised choices will learn faster that someone who only has an understanding in theory. In our classes our young junior black belt leaders are given 3 questions to use. One is "is it safe?" second is "is it beneficial?" and the third is "can I make it enjoyable?". By using these questions, they have ample wiggle room to make their own leadership decisions in regards to what activities to begin with, when to stop and what to move onto without having to consult someone more senior. At the same time they have set parameters, are held accountable for their choices and supervised to be given feedback and to help them grow. At home they may be given the choice of two approved movies the family will watch together or tasked with selecting music for a road trip that everyone will enjoy.
Nathan Van der Klugt - Rhee Tae Kwon Do Bundaberg
By encouraging kindness towards others, conversation, confidence and validating good behaviour.
Carly Clark- Splitters Farm
From our department's experiences, this is our message to parents on leadership.
Leadership is not about titles, popularity or esteem. It is about influence and inspiration. The leadership of parents to children is often reflected in the standards they set for themselves. As parents we can provide opportunity, encouragement and support but we need to remember that leadership qualities are learnt through times of challenge and failure and allowing children to experience these. Parents can help their children become better leaders by allowing them to organise themselves for training and being accountable for their performances. The sooner children become independent in their organisation and confident in their abilities the sooner they can build leadership qualities. Ultimately our leadership will be judged by the sum of our actions not words and how we treat others when things get tough.
St Luke's Head of Faculty - Health and Physical Education, Michael Parsons
Michael Parsons - St Luke's Head of Faculty - Health and Physical Education
Give children safe boundaries to explore and allow time for them to respond to questions, situations, topics without feeling the need to provide the answer for them.
Jaala Beauchamp - Bundaberg Regional Libraries
Parents/Carers/Educators can help develop leadership in children by allowing them to assist in organising themselves so that they are able to see what is going on around them and what needs to be done. Ask children questions on what they think needs to be done and how you can work together to achieve this. It allows them to stretch their thinking and problem solving ability which leads into good leadership. Also being thankful for another person's assistance is a good quality of a leader and this can be demonstrated by a parent and then prompt the child to thank the parent for their assistance. This all feeds into working as a team and looking at a situation from a leadership point of view
Jeanette McElligott- Bundy Bowl & Leisure
Leadership skills can be fostered in children through developing a child’s confidence, independence, and agency. This can be done through providing children with opportunity to be less dependent on adults and use problem solving skills through completing age/ developmentally appropriate tasks themselves. In the play space this is called “returning responsibility”, a child may ask the adult to open a container and they are developmentally capable of completing this task themselves, the adult (therapist) will return the responsibility “You would like me to open that container for you, but I think that is something you can do”. A child being able to problem solve and have a feeling of accomplishment builds independence and is transferable into long term leadership skills.
Jasmine Harris - Connections Play Therapy
Allow role play at leading. For example when bowling choose out one child to be team captain and enter names in on the score terminal.The same with mini golf nominate a captain to do the scoring. All juniors need to have a chance to lead and by starting early you are asking them to show responsibility from a young age. When you are put in a position of leadership you have a certain role to play that can only be improved upon with more practice in leading.
Peter McElligott - Bundy Bowl & Leisure
There are many opportunities to help kids to develop leadership skills in the Wide Bay, here are some of our favourites.
Bundaberg Regional Libraries youth program supports children to be independent and confident community members. They host regular children's session and free activities at the Bundaberg, Childers and Gin Gin Libraries for children of all ages.
Evolve Integrative Wellbeing is a safe place children can creatively learn to understand their thoughts and feelings on many topics including leadership. Where neuroscience theory meets creativity, safety, empathy, and acceptance.
Rhee Taekwondo Bundaberg has a big focus on leadership. Every class allows for continual leadership training enabling students to learn to think for themselves and become a positive influence and role model to other classmates and in their community.
Terra Tribe Farm Kids head outdoors, swap screens for survival skills, encouraging leadership by teaching kids about permaculture, nature and sustainability at its outdoor programs including Forest Kindy.
Gymfinity Gymnastics The children's classes at Gymfinity range from toddlers to teens. The classes allow kids to develop their independence and leadership skills through neurological and physical abilities.
Bundy Bowl and Leisure Centre has so many great activities including that help encourage leadership, resilience and independence in children.
Connections Play Therapy and Consultancy is a safe supportive environment through child centred play therapy. Children enter into a trusting therapeutic relationship where they can express, explore and make sense of their life experiences.
What do you think? Let us know your thoughts about how parents, carers and educators may help develop leadership skills in children.