I want my boys to grow up to be leaders.
This doesn’t mean that I necessarily wish for them to be CEO’s, or heads of state, or be in charge of large groups of people. If that’s what they want to do with their life, then great, I know they will achieve that.
But that’s not my definition of a leader. For me a leader is someone who doesn’t follow, someone who can forge their own path. A person who isn’t swayed by popular opinion or the whims of society or a strong personality at school.
I want my children to feel such confidence in themselves that they naturally lead, no matter what their life looks like. Perhaps they will quietly lead by example, or perhaps they will be President of the United States. As long as they are true to themselves and their values, they will be leaders.
Sometimes with this parenting gig it’s easier to focus on what not to do, behaviors to avoid. To that end, I’ve found there are several things I chose not to do, in this quest for my sons to be leaders.
1. Don’t let them fail.
If you aren’t occasionally failing, you aren’t attempting to try new things. Many adults are ashamed of failing; I see that all the time in my coaching practice. I want my boys to have a healthy relationship with the notion of failure, so I’ve taught them failure is the mark of a strong person who takes risks.
2. Constantly praise them.
We all want our kids to have a solid sense of self-esteem, and it can be tempting to bolster their egos by letting them know how proud we are of their accomplishments, big and small. But constantly praising them doesn’t serve them; it not only serves to dilute the impact of your praise, it can also reduce their motivation if they start to believe they are always amazing.
3. Be afraid to disappoint them.
Of course children need to trust their parents for a feeling of safety and constancy. That doesn’t mean that we need to be need to be all things to them at all times. It’s okay if they are disappointed that they can’t join their friends for an afternoon movie, or that you can’t play a game with them right now, or that they can’t have the toy all of their friends want. Saying, “no” is a part of parenting; learning how to handle minor let-downs will give them the skills to handle life’s bigger issues.
4. Don’t let them seek independence.
We’ve all heard the stories of parents contacting their college-aged students’ professors to ask why they didn’t get a 4.0. Of course that impulse comes from a place of love and concern, but at some point those “children” need to stand on their own two feet. I start young with my boys; for example, I don’t assist with projects unless they need something only an adult can do. At the science fair? It’s obvious that my boys’ volcano was made by a child, not his parents. And he couldn’t be prouder of it.
5. Hide your own flaws and mistakes from them.
In the quest to be a good role model, as parents we can fall into the trap of hiding those parts of ourselves we don’t want our children to emulate. But doing so sets an impossibly high bar; if they think their parents are infallible, and they know they aren’t, then they can develop a fear of being inherently inferior. Let them see those foibles, share with them some of your failures past and present, let them know that you, like them, are just a human being after all.
How do you strive to raise a leader? Share in the comments!
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