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Encouraging Heroes. You can be one too.

Innate leadership qualities are usually pretty apparent in small children. Observe a classroom or playground, and you’ll see certain kids that just direct everyone else and others that sit quietly and fall in line with what others are doing. While people can’t always change their core makeup, they can hone their skills throughout life to become better versions of themselves. Experiences and training can make even the shyest person a leader in the right circumstances. Fortunately, helping children to hone their leadership skills is something that we can do while they’re at a very young age. Here are some of the most important things to keep in mind if this something you plan to do:

Teach Listening and Well as Leading
Leadership qualities aren’t always what people immediately imagine. They can be the normal ones that come to mind, such as being able to stand up and speak in front of others, but one of the most important things to keep in mind is that simply becoming a good listener can do wonders for one’s ability to lead a group. No leader can ever be successful without first becoming a good listener. A good listener will be intent on hearing and understanding the needs of others, whether clients, teammates or constituents.

Teach by Example
Much like acquiring a language. many lessons your children will learn about leadership will come from simply watching and perhaps emulating the adults in their lives. If those adults are strong leaders and take charge of situations, many times the children around them will see how to effectively navigate the waters of similar situations. They will observe their parents, teachers, scout leaders and so forth. Try to teach leadership skills by including children in a project from start to finish. Let them see how you plan a lesson or gather the right tools and people to carry out a task. Ask for their input and then reinforce that, if and when they need to lead something later in life, all these steps are crucial. Take time to listen to their questions and answer them honestly, all the while pointing out that you’re doing so in order for them to remember to do that with others in life as well.

Never ever lose sight of the importance of education! No matter how “smart” your child may seem, they can likely benefit from many educational programs. What’s more – any program, whether an after school program or summer camp, can and likely will yield countless opportunities for your child to exercise those leadership skills you’ve been teaching them! Always speak about the future as if the world is their oyster – plan on them going to college no matter what. They can decide if they don’t want to go later on, but for now – get to thinking about where they’ll attend!

Teach Organization and Think Creatively
Being a good leader is about more than just getting things done. Being a good leader is a skillset that is honed through experience. It requires planning, structure as the foundation, but also many other characteristics that are sometimes harder to come by. Two very important traits you should try to instill in your children are that of organization and creativity. It doesn’t matter how clear your vision or intense your determination – without these two ingredients, your recipe will either blow or be unbearably bland. Organization is necessary to strike a real plan of action and contingency options in the case of possible pitfalls, while creativity is necessary to set yourself apart. Remember these when you’re teaching your child – try to incorporate organization strategies into goals and projects – perhaps make them into a game! Similarly, never be afraid of allowing your child to express their creativity.

Alex Jimenez writes about parenting, education and child development. His recent work is on the Top Online Masters in Special Education Programs.

Earnest Parenting: help for parents of budding leaders.

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