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We know children are hard-wired to learn by observing the world around them. For natural-born leaders, demonstrating leadership and self-reliance skills may come naturally.

However, the rest of us will need to be a little more intentional in our ongoing conversation with the children in our lives to ensure they are given the opportunity to develop some basic skills.

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Tips for teaching children leadership skills

Even for those who will not become leaders in their community, leadership skills can help children foster a sense of control, ability, and endurance in all things in life. To this end, this article will explore five ways we can encourage leadership attributes in young children.

1. Encourage team activities

Have a discussion with the child(ren) in your life and find out what interests them the most. Do they love the outdoors? Playing music? Learning about wildlife? Any of these interests can be further explored in a team activity like girl/boy scouts, sports, band, or theater.

Enrolling children in team activities gives them the opportunity to observe the leader of their group, taking notes on how they manage the many personalities in the group, how they set guidelines or enforce rules, and how they provide equality amongst group members etc. Allowing them the opportunity to observe leadership skills displayed in a smaller age-appropriate setting provides information in a way that is more readily digestible and applicable in their own young lives.

2. Strengthen negotiation abilities

Children are in a unique position wherein most of their actions require permission from an overseeing adult. This dynamic provides endless opportunities for children to practice their negotiating skills to obtain the outcome they desire.

For example, Jane wants more time to work on her assignment and requests an extra ten minutes. Instead of saying a simple “yes” or “no”, let Jane explore some of the surrounding circumstances of the situation. “Well, Jane, I’d like for you to finish your assignment too, but I’m concerned if you keep working on it, you’re going to miss what we discuss next. What do you think?” Allow Jane the opportunity to voice her concerns and imagine a resolution for her problem.

If needed, provide Jane with some options to choose from. “You could work on it during lunch, but then you may be too hungry. Or you could choose to work on it during recess. Which sounds better to you?” Teaching children to negotiate will help them create imaginative solutions for problems in the future. This is a “must-have” quality in leaders of any kind.

3. Practice confident decision making

As a child gets older, there will come a time when they need to move away from the security of having their parents make their decisions for them and begin exercising their own decision-making skills. This can be a bit overwhelming if too many options present themselves.

Adults can support a child by narrowing down their options to two or three suitable selections and then allowing the child to choose freely between them. Guide the child in the process of weighing the pros and cons of each decision, demonstrating for them the unseen processes that take place before a choice has been made. Encourage them to voice their decision to others independently and allow the natural repercussions to take effect for successful growing opportunities.

4. Encourage hard work

A true leader is a hard worker and a child will need to set reasonable expectations for themselves and the endeavors they choose in life. This can be supported by allowing the child to imagine large-scale scenarios, like a lemonade stand, a club-house, or a homemade buggy and support them while they independently complete the work it takes to realize their vision.

Help them by breaking down the goal into manageable tasks and setting deadlines. Coach them through frustrations and help them problem solve along the way. This will instill endurance in the young leader and realizing their goals will provide overwhelming pride and confidence in their own ability.

5. Instill optimism

Optimism is directly linked to success. There will be many times in your child’s life that they will need to take a leap of faith and hope for the best. It is in these moments true leaders are born. An optimistic leader exudes confidence and inspires optimism in those around them. Lead children toward a more optimistic mindset by helping them identify their thoughts as either optimistic or pessimistic and clearly outline the significance in thinking positively. Reward optimistic thoughts whenever possible with praise, and openly express your own optimism.

Teaching a child the skills of a leader does not necessarily ensure they will become a leader as an adult. It does, however, ensure that they will be the leaders of their own lives – an absolutely worthwhile lesson in independence, self-compassion, and self-reliance.

Tips for teaching children children self-reliance skills

Children often need help with everyday things; they need someone to cook their food, buy them things, help with homework and sometimes even dress them. But there comes a point in every child’s life where they will crave to do certain things for themselves and this is a life skill that should be nurtured.

Allowing kids to become self-reliant at an early age not only teaches them independence but also how to deal with certain challenges without running to mommy or daddy first.

1. Assign chores or house hold responsibilities

This is a classic way to teach kids responsibility as well as prompting them to learn not to wait to be told to clean their room or make their bed.

Chores can include:

  • Tidying up dishes after meals
  • Emptying the dishwasher
  • Walking the dog
  • Cleaning up after pets

Remember to praise good behavior at first, but then stop after a little while to make sure the behavior is now expected rather than bargained for.

2. Give them an allowance (and let them budget)

A tie in with chores is giving them an allowance for doing these jobs. This way kids learn you have to do something (for example take out the trash) to get a reward, just like a real-life job. But just like real life, they have to budget for what they want which means you should allow them to make mistakes with their money to learn that once it’s gone, it’s gone. Limit borrowing from the Bank of Mom and Dad unless there is a good reason.

3. Let kids make some their own decisions

Letting kids make their own decisions helps teach self-reliance and making sure to praise these decisions when they are younger and backing off when they are older is key to letting them become an individual with their own thoughts. Let your kids choose their outfits, what games to play with you and how to spend their allowances.