Friday, February 19, 2010

Raising decision makers.

Quick question: How do you raise children who can state their ideas and lead others?

Quick answer: You give them the opportunity to do so.

I thought of this as I was visiting one of my sites during the holidays. The teacher and children were in the process of beginning to decorate the classroom. She took out the decorations, they looked at all of them and then one by one she asked them, the students, where they thought it should go. This was something so simple, not life or death, not sex or drugs, but simply where do you think I should put this shiny thing.

It was interesting to watch because not all of them dived in with answers. Some were obvious followers, and some were those stand out leaders who knew exactly what they wanted and how to ask for it. One little girl in particular had some "definite ideas" about every one of the decorations and was not reserved about stating them. She knew to be a little loud, a little firm, and if need be get a little closer to the teacher. One child held back did not make a decision until the other children had started moving in a direction and then supported what another wanted.

The great lesson was that everyone got to be a leader, because as she chose who to give the decoration to - this teacher made sure to divide it up. I think she called on everyone. Therefore, everyone felt that they had played an important part in deciding something. No one was labeled a follower, according to her, because everyone made decisions. How powerful for those kids who don’t normally see themselves that way. They got the opportunity to try on making decisions and having themselves heard. You should have seen the smiles!

I also thought it was nice to see the way she handled those off the wall ideas. "Hey, we could hang it from the ceiling" they said more than once. "That's an idea," she said. "How do you think we could get up there?" Ideas flowed from them like crazy, some plausible, some not so - in the end the class decided that would not work. She did not say to them. "That won't work because of..." instead, she let these preschoolers figure it out for themselves and they did.

Today's Lesson: Everyone deserves a chance to be a leader and be heard. If you have found yourself somehow stuck in the follower role figure out where you can be a leader. Each part is important, and everyone has it in them to do both. Perhaps, at work, you are a good productive follower and comfortable with that supportive role – then challenge yourself somewhere else. Find the space where you can be a leader and then try it on. There is power in being heard and you never know others might just find value in what you have to say. Then take that new trait and try it in old places. If you find yourself being the leader, then remember to open things up to those of us who might be overshadowed by your personality. Imagine how many great ideas that class would have missed out on if the teacher had only listened to the one little girl.

Today’s Parenting Lesson: Raise leaders. Give your children opportunities to make decisions. Even small ones. It is about the practice. You cannot develop a skill that you have never had the opportunity to try out. I love that my children comfortably stating their opinions. I love the discussions as we hear each other out. And you know why? Because I know these same conversations are going on with their friends. I know my children have practiced being in charge and stating what is right for them and so I am/will be more comfortable with them out in the world with the tough decisions (sex, drugs, skipping school, etc).

One more thing. Sometimes you can see that one of your children is “ a natural born leader” Great nurture that. I have one and I love it. However, I do remind her that her brother needs practice to and I make sure that happens. Do not let one child get so use to following that leading becomes foreign. Be proactive and make sure that both kids make decisions and that both know their opinion should count and know how to make themselves heard.

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