Chances are if I asked you if you prefer that your child be a leader or a follower, you would say, "leader." We all want our kids to be a leader not a follower but in reality a better goal would be to know when to lead and when to follow. Most successful people do not feel the need to always be the leader. Instead, they have a strong desire to make sure that they, and others, get to the right place. Sometimes this means taking the lead, while other times it is wise to rotate back in the pack and let someone else lead for awhile-as long as they are headed in the right direction.
How exactly do we encourage our kids to be their own person, able to lead or follow towards positive goals, especially during the fragile tween years when every moment (or so it seems) is already fraught with an "Am I being judged?" anxiety?
Here are three quick tips for encouraging kids to learn to lead or follow as the situation may call for.
1. Let kids arrive at their own conclusions. Encourage your kids to come to you with questions but refrain (refrain, parents, refrain!) from jumping in with a solution. Offer multiple ways of looking at a situation but let kids come to conclusions on their own-even if it's the wrong conclusion. Just brace yourself to have a follow-up conversation about what went wrong and the reasons behind why your child's logic didn't pan out.
2. Examine the problem, piece by piece. In school the hardest questions to answer were word problems or a math equation. Teachers would always say, "Read the question carefully and think through it." The same goes for any problem your child faces. Have them examine it piece by piece and the answer usually will show itself.
3. Be willing to offer advice. Allowing our kids to arrive at their own conclusions doesn't mean we step back from our parenting duties. Sometimes our kids come to us because they're frustrated or hurt and they need our guidance. Allow your child to work out some answers on their own but know it's okay to ask them, "Would you like to know what I would do?" Then talk through why they think your advice does or doesn't make sense for them.
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Pioneer educator Dr. Michael Popkin is the founder of Active Parenting Publishers and is the author of many award winning video-based parenting education programs. An expert in his field, Dr. Popkin earned a doctorate in Counseling Psychology from Georgia State University and has served as Director of Child and Family Services at an Atlanta hospital.