As children get older, it’s important that they have the confidence to make their own decisions. Strong leadership skills help kids develop better and more creative coping abilities when it comes to problem solving and project management.

For some children, leadership comes naturally and for others, it must be developed and encouraged over time.

Either way, parents can help, so that as children grow, leading others and knowing when it is appropriate to follow someone else’s lead are already second nature.

Set an example

Parents can help their kids develop good leadership by showing them what a good leader looks like on a daily basis. When you lead others, including your own children, try to be optimistic, a good listener, treat people fairly, and do the right thing. Your kids will learn these skills simply by  modeling your good example.

Set them up for success

Kids who are successful at the things they try are more confident and more willing to get out of their comfort zone. You can achieve this by encouraging them to try activities where they have  natural strengths and talent or assist them in projects just enough to help them succeed while still allowing them the majority of the decision and work the project entails.

Build communication skills

Listening and good communication are keys to making a leader successful and well-liked by peers. Encourage your child to put their communication skills into practice by developing listening skills, public speaking, and expressing their frustrations in a healthy way. Parents can do this by asking children to order their own food at a restaurant, encouraging them to approach coaches or teachers themselves when there is a problem, and teaching them to ask questions after listening to a friend talking.

Be a team player

School projects, team sports, clubs, or being a part of a band, orchestra or choir helps kids  understand how to work towards a goal as a group. These experiences help your child understand how to be a good leader and when to listen to others and why both are equally important.

Encourage lifelong skills

Integrity, empathy, work ethic, respect, negotiation and compromise are great skills for any leader, as well as any student, employee or friend. You can encourage these skills by setting a good example and talking through situations where they were or were not utilized well. Ask your child how she would have handled this differently and why. Praise him when he has done a good job using these skills and encourage them when needed.

Show them the value of diversity

There is great value in diversity. Everyone has different backgrounds, experiences and gifts.  Encourage your kids to learn about other cultures and experiences and that differences are what make us a stronger team. They can learn to stand up to those who are singled out or viewed as different from others. This is what makes a great leader.

Ask for help

Kids who know when to problem solve and when to ask for guidance are better teammates and  stronger leaders. It’s also important to offer help to others in the group who may be struggling.  Lead by example and be encouraging and helpful when needed.

Develop good work habits

Kids who have responsibilities at a young age are better prepared to lead others. Encourage your  child to get a part time job at a young age or pick up jobs like yard work, babysitting or volunteer work so she can build her leadership skills, develop her work ethic and get experience in a variety of areas.

Time management

When your child has a large project to complete, encourage him to map out a plan for getting it done on time. Create steps and set goals to accomplish to meet the deadline. Good project  management skills will serve kids well as leaders and employees in the future.

As your child develops strong leadership skills, it’s important to understand that she will not always be the person in charge. Having good leadership skills doesn’t mean you are always the one who is leading. Being respectful and willing to listen and compromise while not officially being the person who is “in charge” of the group is still a way to lead others.

Extracurricular Activities that Build Leadership Skills

  • Team sports: Being part of a team helps kids learn to work as a group and understand the art of leading and following others.
  • Student government: Being part of student council or government helps kids learn to lead and build speaking and negotiating skills.
  • Start your own club: If your child is interested in something specific, chances are others their age are as well. Starting his own club is a great way to learn how to lead others and share common interests.
  • Volunteer work: Giving of your time helps kids put others first, work on a project for the greater good, develop a good work ethic, and build leadership skills.
  • Academic teams or clubs: Being part of an academic team or clubs such as robotics, mathletes, speech and debate, National Honors Society and science club are great ways to build skills in areas  that interest them and give them leadership skills they can use in college and the workforce.
  • Music and arts: Not everyone is drawn to team sports but being part of a choir, orchestra, band, theater or working on a creative project as a group can have the same benefits as team sports do when it comes to leadership skills.
  • Scouts: Groups like Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts give kids the opportunity to work as a team and individually while helping others and being exposed to diversity, volunteer work, team building and life skills.

-Sarah Lyons

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