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How Do I Help My Child Learn To Be A Leader

How do I help my child learn to be a leader?

It’s a question that many parents ask themselves, and something our summer camp team spends a great deal of time studying. Recently, we were at an educational conference and heard expert Tim Elmore speaking about this subject. If you are not familiar with Elmore, he’s an authority on helping young people grow into future leaders. I found his message really compelling, particularly because, as he said “every kid can be a leader, because leadership is about influence.” His mission is to help every young person develop the tools and inner directive to create positive change in their world. Over 30 years Tim Elmore has published over 25 books (including a number of best sellers) on young people and leadership. He’s also founder and president of Growing Leaders, a nonprofit that conducts research to determine the best parenting and educational practices for fostering qualities like independence, resilience and collaboration in young people.


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I recently saw an interview with Elmore in Forbes Magazine, and thought it had a lot of useful information worth sharing. Tim offered what he sees as the 7 behaviors that parents engage in that keep children from becoming leaders – of their own lives, in their social relationships, and eventually in the workplace:


1. We don’t let our children experience risk

2. We rescue too quickly

3. We rave too easily

4. We let guilt get in the way of leading well

5. We don’t share our past mistakes

6. We mistake intelligence, giftedness and influence for maturity

7. We don’t practice what we preach

As hard as I try I know that I fall into some of these parenting traps. I highly recommend clicking on the link below to read his detailed explanation of exactly how these well-meaning behaviors may create unintended or undesirable personality traits in our young people. 


It’s a fairly long and interesting piece, and I like what Elmore says towards the end of the interview:


It’s important for parents to become exceedingly self-aware of their words and actions when interacting with their children, or with others when their children are nearby. Care enough to train them, not merely treat them to a good life. Coach them, more than coddle. 


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From there he offers these 10 suggestions on how to be an intentional parent for generating these outcomes.  As a parent I found this short list to be extremely intentional and instructive. As a camp director I enjoyed how closely it aligns with the methods we ask our counselors to use each summer to teach leadership, independence and grit to our campers. 

1. Talk over the issues you wish you would’ve known about adulthood.
2. Allow them to attempt things that stretch them and even let them fail.
3. Discuss future consequences if they fail to master certain disciplines.
4. Aid them in matching their strengths to real-world problems.
5. Furnish projects that require patience, so they learn to delay gratification.
6. Teach them that life is about choices and trade-offs; they can’t do everything.
7. Initiate (or simulate) adult tasks like paying bills or making business deals.
8. Introduce them to potential mentors from your network.
9. Help them envision a fulfilling future, and then discuss the steps to get there.
10. Celebrate progress they make toward autonomy and responsibility.


I’m curious what you think about Elmore’s list of parenting do’s and don’ts. Based on your experience as a parent, what do you think he gets right or wrong in this interview? Has he identified the right methods for helping a child grow to be a leader?  


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