4 Tips for Raising Leaders

Image via Katie Hurley
Image via Katie Hurley

Although parents often think of peer pressure as an issue that crops up in the tween and teen years, it can begin much younger.  The fact is that many kids simply want to be liked by others and are natural pleasers, and it takes a strong personality to be the leader instead of simply following along.

To be a great leader, you have to stand up for what you believe in, take a stand against peer pressure, and set a personal standard of behavior.

Being loud and assertive, however, does not necessarily mean that a child will become a leader.  The truth is that anyone can be a leader, even a quiet, introverted child.  Leadership isn’t about telling others what to do.  In fact, leadership is more about making choices that inspire and influence others along the way.

Kids can step into their roles as leader at very young ages, and parents can help kids do just that. 

4 Tips for Raising Leaders:

Zig Ziglar Goals
Image via EverydayFamily

Teach them to set goals:

Setting personal goals is an important leadership skill.  If you stop and think about the great leaders throughout history, they all started by setting their own goals. 

Kids can learn a lot from regular goal setting.  I’m not talking about the elusive New Year resolutions that fade out by early March.  Kids need short-term, manageable goals that can be measured daily.  But, for the goals to have meaning, your kids need to set them independently.

My son recently decided to learn to count to twenty in another language.  He’s five.  For almost one week, he worked on his numbers each day.  By the end of the week, he met his goal and could count to twenty in another language.  Then he moved on to math facts.  The point is that when kids set their own goals, and those goals are both measurable and attainable, they are inspired to work toward them.  And that is the sign of a leader.


Image via Nicole Hempeck
Image via Nicole Hempeck

Inspire confident decision-making:

There are numerous reasons to give kids choices each day, and inspiring leadership is one of them.  When kids can make choices with confidence, they are more likely to stand firm in their beliefs and walk away from negative situations and peer pressure.

Let them choose their clothes.  Let them help make decisions about dinner.  Let them have a voice and make small decisions with confidence so that they will be able to do the same when it’s time to make big decisions.  

Image via Flickr/ArkansasShutterbug
Image via Flickr/ArkansasShutterbug

Teach positive thinking and problem solving:

When kids learn to approach challenges with a positive attitude, they build self-confidence.  It’s not simply a matter of quitting or not quitting, it’s about changing the internal dialogue and helping kids learn that they can persevere. 

When we cue kids to reframe their negative thoughts and focus on problem-solving skills instead, we give them the tools to thrive even when life is frustrating.  Great leaders don’t back down simply because something feels hard and overwhelming, they keep trying until their reach their goals.  

Image via Flickr/North Charleston
Image via Flickr/North Charleston

Teach assertiveness skills:

Part of standing up for your beliefs and walking away from peer pressure is learning to communicate in an assertive manner.  This is sometimes confused with aggressive communication, but there is a big difference.  Children who have an assertive communication style are able to communicate their needs in a calm manner.  They do not try to force others to follow them; they simply state their needs and beliefs in a clear and direct manner.

Try a few role-plays to help your child find her voice.  Have your child come up with some common peer scenarios that occur at school and practice assertive responses, including standing tall and keeping emotions in check.

How do you practice leadership skills at home?

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4 Tips for Raising Leaders

Katie Hurley, LCSW is a Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist and writer in Los Angeles, CA. She is the author of "No More Mean Girls: The Secret to Raising Strong, Confident, and Compassionate Girls" and "The Happy Kid Handbook: How to Raise Joyful Children in a Stressful World". She earned her BA in Psychology and Women's Studies from Boston College and her MSW from the University of Pennsylvania. She divides her time between her family, her private practice and her writing. Passionate about he ... More

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1 comment

  1. Profile photo of marlene marlene says:

    Very interesting and helpful! Thanks for all your help


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