As much as we try, our children will not leave childhood without picking up some of our behaviors and traits- either consciously or unconsciously.
There are tons of ways that we can encourage our children to be leaders within their community, and many of them start with the behaviors that we model for them.
Here are some behaviors that can be extremely damaging if you’re trying to encourage leadership in your children.
1. Protecting children from risk
Good parents know when to protect their children, but they also know when it’s time to walk away and let their children stand on their own two feet.
Children who have always been protected from risk grow up without learning how to handle it, and learning how to mitigate risk is a huge part of leadership.
Even if it makes you feel uncomfortable, letting your children see you handle tough situations shows them that being an adult sometimes means dealing with risk and discomfort.
2. Mistaking intelligence for maturity
Parents of highly intelligent children often make the mistake of assuming that their child’s above-average intelligence means that they’ve matured along the same trajectory.
Unfortunately, this is often not the case- many times, children that are intelligent, astute, or highly developed in another area use that skill to hide the fact that they’re actually very emotionally immature.
While all children develop at their own speed, emotional maturity is a concept that cannot really be taught.
3. They assume what worked for one child will work for another
Many parents of multiples start from the assumption that what worked for their first child will work for their second, and subsequent children.
While this may work for the stages of life when your child is too small to articulate their own feelings, as a child grows up, it’s important to measure each child’s growth in relation to their own past, rather than comparing them to their siblings.
Each child has their own personality, and failing to see their positive qualities because they don’t match those of their sibling can lead to feelings of confusion and despair.
The more you encourage your child to progress according to their own abilities, the more confident they’ll feel in their leadership skills as an adult.
4. They stifle their ability to problem-solve
One key aspect of growing up is learning how to solve problems.
If we don’t learn this skill young, it’s very hard to learn it as we grow older.
Parents who coddle their children and work out all of their problems for them generally produce children who are reliant on the leadership of others.
You can prevent this by encouraging your child to take risks and solve problems using their skills and knowledge, with gentle guidance from you.
5. Showing kids a rosy view of the world
Kids can handle more complicated knowledge than many adults give them credit for.
Refusing to let children see that the world can be complex and difficult at times can lead to a child growing up ignorant and sheltered.
Sheltered children generally grow into adults who are very easily influenced by others, which is not a great quality for a potential leader.
Showing children the things that make the world beautiful, and things that make the world terrible is important if you want them to have perspective as they grow older.
6. Saying one thing, but doing another
There are many parents out there who operate on a model of ‘do as I say, not as I do’.
These parents may seek to limit their child’s screen time, but are never without their phone- or they forbid their children to gossip, but regularly say nasty things about friends and neighbors within their child’s hearing.
Sending a mixed signal like this will only make the forbidden habit that much more desirable.
It also subtly teaches your children that bad habits are ok as long as they’re hidden.
Instead of hiding your bad habits from your children, use them as an opportunity to show your children the value of honesty.
7. Threatening to leave them alone
Parents who threaten to leave their children when they’re misbehaving (“If you don’t get up off the ground now I’m going to leave you here”) instill in their children the idea that expressing an unpopular opinion drives people away.
While it may work in the short term to get your child to stop having a tantrum, in the long run, it’s better to help your child understand why their behavior is wrong, rather than just walking away.