My child a leader? Why not! There are many things that parents can do to make that dream come true. But before we consider those things, let’s understand what modern day leadership means.
Traditional leadership, characterized by status, hierarchy, power and position, is gradually being replaced by a set of skills that are essentially about people relationships, shared purpose and communication. Leadership today and in the future, is about being self-assured, authentic and caring genuinely about people, and steering them towards common goals for a larger purpose.
Family, friendships, communities, and small and big social groups provide the perfect training ground for leadership. So, children can get hands-on experience without even being aware of it. While leadership skills can come naturally, children learn lessons along the way that significantly impact them later in life.
What parents can do
Schools and activity centres give children ample opportunities for learning new skills. Wholesome family life experiences prepare children for reaping the benefits from those inputs. The absorbent minds of kids between ages 3 to 6 years are busy soaking in every experience. They watch keenly and learn from the way their parents play leadership roles at home. So, parents are the most influential role models from whom children pick up their first lessons in leadership. Ages 6 to 8 years are spent consolidating early childhood learnings, in preparation for the pre-adolescent years.
Future leadership skills – Competence, self-management, enquiry
a) Teach them to do their basic tasks that lead to gradual independence and self-sufficiency.
b) Allow them to use their curiosity to explore and discover anything and everything around them, keeping safety in mind.
c) Be cautious of being overly protective. Be watchful and let them experience things to know and learn about them. They need to ask questions.
Activities – allowing them to dress themselves, feed themselves, help clean up the mess with spilled food and strewn toys, put their things away, carry their own little bags.
Future leadership skills – Creativity, open-mindedness, appreciating perspectives
a) Encourage individual imaginative play and group activities that indulge their curiosity and help explore their creative energies. Let them question the why and how of things.
b) Show genuine interest in their thoughts and ideas. Ask them to describe and explain their play. Let them decide how they would like to improve or further develop their creations. Display them prominently in the home, even if they don’t complement your decor!
Activities – Collect safe junk materials, odds and ends, in a carton. It’s amazing how kids explore their imagination with unwanted items.
Place their play materials at eye-level and make them easily accessible.
Give them a five-minute reminder when it is time to wind up play. They feel very frustrated when we suddenly interrupt their focus and attention.
Future leadership skills – Social and emotional skills for building resonant relationships, team player, problem solving
a) Playing and interacting with other children teaches them social skills such as playing by the rules, taking in different opinions, understanding their own feelings and those of other people, discussing and sorting out their differences and disagreements.
b) Support them through their difficult ‘people moments’ by helping to settle their confused emotions and then to think of what emotions other people might be feeling too.
c) Ask them to think of ways in which a problem could be sorted out and its possible outcomes.
d) Involve them in simple problem solving at home by asking them for suggestions.
Activities – group activities and games, team games and sports, simple problem-solving games.
The author is a Family and School Counsellor, and former President of Chennai Counselor's Foundation.
Related video: Dr Jamuna Rajasekar, Professor and Head of Clinical Neuropsychology and Cognitive Neuro Science Care, National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (NIMHANS), talks about why mental hygiene is critical for physical fitness. Watch here.