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Diversity and Inclusion as a Leadership Trait: Building Leadership Skills in Children

During an era of heightened bullying and suicidal attempts coupled with the realization of living in a diverse society it has become increasingly important for parents, teachers, and adult leaders to instill and develop positive leadership skill-building in children. Yes, we can actually teach our children how to lead in positive, effective ways.

Positive effective Leadership will do two things:

  • Teach children how to interact positively with others

  • Give children deep-seated empowerment allowing them to feel liberated

Before we can attempt our work on decreasing bullying and suicidal actions, however, we must ensure our children feel good about themselves.

How does this look?

  • Teach children they can believe in themselves and their accomplishments in life however big, or small

  • Instill a sense of positive self-identity. Children should love who they are

  • Tell children to repeat after you: “I can do it!” or “I did it!”

  • Children should not be afraid to attempt new ideas and tasks

  • Ensure children realize it is okay to question adults/teachers in kind ways. This builds confidence

  • Tell children it is perfectly okay to make mistakes as long as they learn from their mistakes. Then tell children to “dust themselves off” and persevere

  • Teach children to “keep going” and “stick with” their goals. It’s easy to give up when things get tough, but there are brighter days to come

  • Tell children it is okay to say, “NO” to a friend if their friend encourages them to participate, or say things they aren’t comfortable with. This builds strength

Afterwards, children must also learn how to positively and appropriately interact with family members, siblings, pets, etc.

What can parents/guardians do?

  • During family gatherings, holiday gatherings, and play-dates monitor your child’s behavior Ensure children are taught how to treat and care for others

  • Teach your child how to take turns during game board playing, and sports activities

  • Kindly redirect children you observe not behaving in socially appropriate ways. Do not embarrass them. Pause for a minute, and have them rethink how to treat others

  • It’s okay to role-play with your child at home. Whenever you are away from home, children will more than likely remember how to act outside the home

  • Carefully observe how children interact with pets and play dolls. You are looking to see if children are caring, loving and showing remorse

Varying Personalities/Physical Traits

Because we realize children are born into various cultures, home environments, and of course, comprise differing physical make-ups, they are not the same. ALL children can learn effective leadership while accepting and admiring those who look and think differently than their norm, or of how they perceive their norm to be, or how they feel people ought to appear to them. Help children rid “status quo” ideology.

We live in a society where privilege has sometimes obscured our judgment. Teaching children effective leadership will communicate to them how to avoid showing partiality towards certain people and/or groups of people.

Definition of Diversity

Diversity just means an assortment or variety of something whether it is ethnicity, color, opinions, or more. Diversity encompasses much more than different foods, clothes and ways of life. Diversity may also mean different ways to enjoy recreation, family traditions, belief systems, religion, and languages.

So, what should children look for?

  • Belief systems

  • Cultural traditions

  • Various recreational differences

  • Various Instruments/Sports

  • Ideology/Opinions/Thought Processes

  • Languages

  • Religion

  • Schools/jobs

  • Styles of homes/Where people choose to live

  • Styles of clothes

  • Choices of food types

  • Communities

  • Holiday traditions

  • Celebratory traditions

How can we teach children to appreciate and learn about other children?

  • Children can be trained to initiate conversations with other children who do not share their same methods, approaches, lifestyles and practices

  • Encourage children to include their peers in group activities (clubs, school activities, parties)

  • Children can express themselves using personal journals and then share their cultural experiences one to another

  • Ask children to always respect their friends difference

  • Train children how to appropriately negotiate/compromise with friends and family members when in disagreement

Being allowed to usurp and command a feeling of positive affirmations also allows children to possess “feel good” personalities. Teaching self-affirmation and self-fulfilling prophecy skills and techniques are other ways to initiate the start of building positive leadership. Children who feel empowered usually become trailblazers of tomorrow. However, we must also work with our children letting them realize how positive empowerment is expressed via actions, or words.

Where do we begin?

A child first learns how to develop socially appropriate and positive leadership skills from his parents or guardians. Afterwards, teachers can “carry on the torch” in classrooms teaching social skills lessons. There should always be home/school relationships where parents and school officials work together.

No-No (Stereotypes/Biases)

  • Be careful about stereotypes. In order to teach this important skill, adults must role-model it themselves

  • Be careful about judging others. Teach children how to find positive attributes about others. What are 2-3 positive attributes you can find about someone?

  • Avoid racist and sexist comments

  • Teach children the importance of respecting and treating others the way they’d want to be treated

  • Let children know it is okay not to become followers (peer pressure), but leaders

  • Parents can fill their homes with diverse artifacts teaching ethnic diversity

  • Encourage children to read books with diverse characters

  • Encourage children to read books about diverse regions/places

As parents/guardians/teachers/adult leaders, we can “spear-head” and guide children into positive leaders who can appreciate diversity, and difference as we encourage them towards positive healthy relationships.

Author Cherrye S. Vasquez, Ph.D. is a public school administrator and an adjunct professor who has earned a Doctor of Philosophy in Curriculum and Instruction, a Master of Education in Special Education, and a Bachelor of Arts in Speech Pathology/Audiology. Her areas of specializations are in Multi-cultural Education, Early Childhood Handicapped, Mid-Management and Educational Diagnostician. Cherrye lives in Houston, Texas with her husband, Roy, and daughter, Kelly. The focus of Cherry’s books is, “Diversity is healthy and bullying is not.” Learn more about Cherrye on her website at:

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