The Parkland, Florida high school students who have become activists set an important example of how our youth can take on powerful leadership roles to inspire change.
Motivating your child to be a leader at a young age can help build his confidence, self-esteem, and social awareness. These skills will help your child become a successful, responsible adult who understands how to work both independently and within a group successfully.
To help instill leadership skills in our children, there are things big and small we can do—which will encourage our children to voice their opinions, stand up for their beliefs, and work together to rise above challenges. And with graduation coming up for students across the country, now is a perfect time to inspire your little graduate for the future.
Enroll your child in team sports.
Team sports are a perfect way to teach your child that leadership skills and success do not come from working alone, but from working cooperatively with others who can help you achieve your goals. A sport also encourages hard work and determination—building strength and resilience in your child to become more skilled.
Use books and games to encourage leadership.
Storybooks contain powerful messages with words of encouragement, that inspire your child to stand up and act, and to make a difference. The personalized book I Can Change the World! encourages children to spread kindness with acts big and small like using manners, being a good friend, collecting food for the hungry and more. Even a simple smile can change someone else’s day! This storybook encourages children to believe in themselves and their ability to affect change in those around them. The personalized edition of I Wish You More is an uplifting story for anyone, from the newborn to the graduate, and applauds effort, achievement, and love—wishing the reader the very best in life.
You can also use adventure books such as My Radio Flyer Adventure, and ask your child to identify the problem and solution in the story. Stories serve as powerful examples for kids, demonstrating how a hero can achieve a goal through determination and hard work.
Family game night is another way to teach kids about friendly competition and to help them manage frustration if they lose. With games, you can teach your children that pleasure comes from the act of playing, and not in winning. Try a board game such as the personalized game Our Family’s Race Across the U.S.A., in which family members must race across America’s coasts and cross the finish line first to win.
Teach wants versus needs.
Teaching your child a “want” versus a “need” is important for establishing what is necessary in life as opposed to what is desired. This confidence-building lesson will help your child make important decisions later in life.
To teach this lesson, we suggest a simple decision-making game. Label a dozen clear jars or glasses with wants and needs. Here are some examples of needs: water, air, sleep, food, shelter, and clothes. Here are some examples of wants: candy, toys, sleepovers, dessert, television, and vacations. Try to include some tricky ones—for example, a pet can be a “want” but it can also be a “need” if the pet is a service animal for someone who is disabled.
Have your child place red-colored pom poms in the “want” jars and blue-colored ones in the “need” jars. After, discuss with your child why these items are wants or needs.
This game will help your child evaluate choices, make informed decisions, and consider what we truly need to be happiest in life.
Model positive behavior.
Your child will look to your decisions and behaviors to understand how to act. To inspire your child to take a stand and lead in a group, you must also demonstrate these behaviors. Give your honest opinion in family discussions. Hold family meetings, where every member can help plan the next week’s family dinners, a fun weekend outing, your next family vacation, and more. Letting your kids participate makes them feel valued and heard. They will also witness your behavior, and model your good habits.
Inspire perseverance, not perfection.
Excellence is defined as doing your best. It is important to teach your child that mistakes are okay, and a natural part of hard work. Achievement should be evaluated by perseverance, not perfection. This way, kids will learn how to adapt to situations, handle mistakes with a positive attitude, and seek out new learning opportunities. When doing homework together, praise your child when he or she is working hard. If your child receives a poor grade, avoid harsh admonishments and offer words of encouragement such as: “Keep trying. We will work hard again, look at the ones that were wrong, and learn so we can do better next time.”
Get creative with problem-solving crafts.
Leaders often need to think outside the box and come up with creative solutions to problems. Putting together puzzles is one leadership activity for kids that teaches hand-eye coordination and problem-solving skills. Craft activities also give ample opportunities for your kids to build creative problem-solving skills.
- Create a drawing prompt that presents a problem. For example, there are many kids in other countries who don’t have clean water. Then ask your child to draw an invention that will solve this problem.
- A paper airplane craft is a great way to teach kids about learning from mistakes and improving to reach a goal. Have your child try to fold a paper airplane and make it fly. Keep trying to improve your folding skills and see how far you can make the airplane travel. Tape a spot on the floor and turn it into a race, seeing whose airplane can travel farther. After each attempt, discuss how your child can create a different fold or create an entirely new airplane to improve on the last flight.
- Build a structure out of toothpicks and marshmallows. Put a pile of toothpicks and a pile of marshmallows on the table. If you are concerned about the sharp ends of toothpicks for little hands, cut straws in half to make substitute support sticks. Then have your child stick the ends of the toothpicks into the marshmallows and connect them together to make a structure, such as a cube or circle. Try to make different shapes or ones that stand up on their own.
- Create a work of art with only your hands! Set out several bowls of different colored paints, and a sheet of paper. Have your child paint an animal using only his hands.
Leadership skills will help your child build confidence and learn to work with others effectively. Remember that building these skills is a lifelong process. Working these crafts and activities into your day-to-day will motivate your child to believe in himself and inspire those around him.