How to Instill Positive Leadership Values from a Young Age

by Joy Turner July 11, 2023

two boys playing in go carts

Football coach Vince Lombardi once said, “leaders are not born, they are made.” As parents and educators, we can model and encourage certain behaviors to develop children into kind, impactful, example-setting humans. During the formative years of your children’s lives, show them that with a little work and effort they can be the best kind of leaders. At Kiddie Academy, we focus on promoting the vital qualities of leadership, determination, resourcefulness and initiative to grow our little ones into people of character.

Practicing leadership

Leadership is the ability to motivate others toward a common goal. In children, leadership can look like working well in a team setting and using a creative, problem-solving mindset.

Here are a few ways to start your child’s journey to becoming a leader:

  • Honing the art of effective communication is the first step toward strong leadership. Implement an open communication path and provide opportunities for your child to lead the way. While it may be intimidating to your little one, prompt your child to lead your family in a game or activity. Pull out a board game your children love and let them lead the way with little guidance or play “follow the leader” by going along with their instructions.
  • Model leadership for your children by setting a good example through your own actions. Children love to replicate what they see, so if they see their parents calmly solve problems and help others, they will do so, too.
  • “Being a Leader” by Cassie Mayer is a book written to walk children through various situations that demonstrate qualities of leadership. By reading this to your child, you can further emphasize the importance of leadership and the qualities that leaders possess.

Practicing determination

Determination is being strongly motivated to succeed as well as being able to push through difficult obstacles. Leaders use determination daily when facing challenges in pursuit of their goals.

Here are some ways to grow your child’s determination:

  • Work on a puzzle as a family—one that is challenging but not frustrating—and try to avoid giving up if you reach a difficult part. Praise effort to build self-esteem and allow children to try to problem solve without interference until necessary.
  • Vision boards are fun for the whole family and create a great sense of direction for dreams and aspirations. To start a vision board with your child, assemble magazine cut-outs, photographs and anything else that represents your child’s goals. Then, place each of the cut pieces onto a single piece of paper or board. This project allows you and your child to visualize goals and work toward them.
  • “Dream Big, Little One” by Vashti Harrison is a book that teaches dreamers to follow their biggest plans. Try reading this book with your child to show them that their most exciting dreams are within reach.

Practicing resourcefulness

Being resourceful is the act of finding quick and clever ways to overcome obstacles and solve problems. Just like the skill of determination, resourcefulness is another great quality to cultivate in your child.

Try these activities to promote your child’s sense of resourcefulness:

  • Collect recyclables around the house like paper towel tubes, tissue boxes and other objects that can be repurposed. Ask your children what they could make out of the items you find or guide them in building something like a tissue-box guitar or an oatmeal-canister drum.
  • Does your child want to work on an art project? Ask your child to think through what items they’ll need for their project and empower them to gather things in and around your home. You can even tap into nature, for example, and invite your child to source leaves and twigs to make art. Here are some great examples to help you start the process of printmaking, a fun, sensory activity you can do while teaching your child resourcefulness.
  • “The Enormous Potato” by Aubrey Davis is a book that shows your child that it is possible to succeed despite obstacles. Try reading this fun book to show how anyone can lend a helping hand to solve a problem.

Practicing initiative

Initiative is the ability to be proactive: the motivation to not only get things done but to also take responsibility. Initiative is how our children can prove leadership skills before they are asked.

Here are some ways to create a positive, initiative-taking environment for your little ones:

  • Provide a space in the refrigerator or on the counter that has age-appropriate drinks for children to access like a small pitcher of water or water bottles. That way, if your children are thirsty, they can take the initiative to get a drink for themselves. Encourage your children to take action and empower them to do things for themselves when appropriate.
  • If you know you’re going on a long car ride, a simple question to ask your children is, “what should we take with us in the car?” Then, allow them to gather items like toys and snacks. Over time, children will become more proactive based on questions and modeling. Always remember to offer praise for attempts and successes!
  • “The Dot” by Peter H. Reynolds is a book that follows Vashti as she is prompted by her teacher to make a mark and see where it takes her. Read Vashti’s story of her surprise journey and self-discovery.

Leadership instills confidence in your child that allows them to make strong decisions. Taking time to foster determination, resourcefulness and initiative will pave the way for your children to discover a better understanding of themselves and others. Don’t forget to remind them to be the leader that they wish they could follow.

Joy Turner


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