Growing a Child with Strength and Character
Children of the 21st century will require leadership skills more than in previous generations. Today’s children, at even younger ages, are being faced with more distractions, increasing obstacles, and heightened situations undermining their safety and security in school and community. They are being taught a great deal of “information,” but much less about their own social and emotional development. Learning how to lead is a big piece of a child’s development. It is crucial that leader skill-building be included in every child’s learning environment.
Definition of Leadership: To motivate and inspire individuals to reach their highest potential, transforming the individual and society in the process.
Leadership traits begin to emerge in children between the ages of 6 and 10 years. Because these traits spring up at such a young age, it’s the perfect time to reach kids with stories, tools, and materials that build upon leader qualities. When we enable children to discover who they are meant to be, we gently lead them into their true identity and destiny. Leadership is not a curriculum – it’s a way of life. Using one’s gifts and talents can change a child’s life and the lives of those around them.
Time tested leader traits and qualities include: vision (the hallmark of a leader), character, optimism, commitment, communication, empathy, flexibility, patience, honesty, imagination, conviction, creativity, inclusiveness, humor, heart-power, self-awareness, passion, innovation, integrity, perseverance, taking a stand, being resilient, and being a positive risk taker. These leader traits are all about human development, not program development.
Leadership is Learned
Because leadership is learned, like happiness and optimism, I believe we have the utmost opportunity to reach kids with innovative programs about what it means to lead by creating products and experiences that capture their imagination on the themes of honesty, integrity, taking a positive risk to change the status quo, discovering an invention, reaching a goal or dream, going the extra mile and resolving conflict, to mention a few. Every child loves to read a story about the one who is different yet suceeds, the one who started from behind but landed first at the finish line, the one who was told he couldn’t make a difference, but won an award for making the biggest difference of all. At the same time, we can be informing kids about the essence of leadership, while enriching their knowledge of what it means to be a leader and how leaders act. Leadership is not about success or fame. It’s about trailblazing and changing people and societies for the better.
Empowering leader skill-building in children, research tells us, positively changes behavior, enriches personality, stimulates individuals to take action, enhances personal character, and often stimulates inventiveness changing the person and society in the process.
Learning leadership skills and developing leader qualities often:
Helps a child understand his/her God-given purpose in life
Increases positive mental health and well-being
Invigorates inner confidence
Promotes healthy relationships
Enhances character, integrity and responsibility
Stimulates initiative and innovation
Strengthens conflict resolution and reconciliation skills
Enriches internal strength and inner-directed leadership
Empowers a child to contribute positively to the world
It is imperative that we strengthen the inner life of children and provide them with increased opportunities, tools, games and materials to develop their unique leader skills. This calls for embracing each child’s gifts and talents, and empowering their ability to lead from strength. I believe the next frontier in adolescence is activating inner-leader strength and nurturing leader skill-building in the young. The times demand it.
“Optimism is one of the highest states of positive emotion, making life worth living and occurs when a child’s skills are used to their utmost.“ -Dr. Martin Seligman, UPENN
Judith Addington is a leadership practitioner and leader catalyst. www.coolcatslead.com