Discover the Leader in Your Child

By Lisa J. Davis

Every child has a purpose in life. As a parent and a teacher, I am continually learning how to tap into the hidden leadership abilities in each child's personality. What may seem to be undesirable behavior can sometimes be developed into an area of strength. It takes structure, discipline, and guidance to help children reach their maximum potential.

Mentoring a son or daughter is exciting, yet challenging. A child learns and develops through many stages. During the infant stage, the child has emotional and educational needs that parents can easily anticipate.

However, once a child grows into the toddler stage, parenting requires more creativity. A child begins to explore his world, surfacing in the form of phrases such as, "No", "Mine," and "I can do it myself." Following this stage and moving through the grade school phase and on into high school, a child is continuously "feeling his turf" with his words, actions, and choices.

This process is a normal part of development. At any given stage in this process a parent can easily mistake some of the child's behavior as negative traits. Following are six L. E. A. D. E. R. principles to discover the leader in your child:

1. Lead by example

As you have learned from your mistakes and made changes in your life, your child can learn to do the same. I learned to react in anger when I did not get my way by watching my father's lack of anger management in my earlier years. However, I also learned to apologize and make amends in relationships as a result of watching my father make changes in his life. My temper indicated a depth of passion that could be channeled constructively, once it was harnessed by concern for other's needs and feelings.

2. Explain your response

The question asked most frequently by children is, "Why?" Every good leader knows, "Because I said so," is not an effective answer. When a child is told to behave in a specific manner without having any understanding of why, it's hard to maintain that behavior when the parent is not around.

Children lack the maturity of sound logic. When I enforce the rule of walking quietly in the hall, I always make the statement, "We have to walk quietly in the hall so that we are respectful of the learning that is going on."

3. Apply your love to the back and the bottom

In a relationship, a person needs to know he is loved before he can receive criticism. I had a boss that always told me what I was doing wrong. In three years, she made only one comment about something I had done right. She tried to discipline me without developing a relationship with me. This hindered me from becoming a better teacher during the time I worked for her.

Children are the same way. Children can take a 'pat on the bottom,' if they continually receive a 'pat on the back.'

4. Deal with each incident separately

Life is easier to handle one day at a time. Consequently, dealing with a child's misbehavior is also easier to handle one day at a time. The words "never" and "always" are seldom used in a positive manner.

I have a student who needs a lot of 'mercy' from me. If I concentrated on how often I needed to handle situations that arose from his choices, I would have a difficult relationship with him. Last school year, he frequented the principal's office at least once a week. This year, he has only been to the office once. I believe it is due to the relationship I developed with him and the fact that I give him a fresh start each day.

5. Evaluate the situation

Children sometimes respond negatively because they are being forced to deal with adult problems. Is the child hitting at school because he does not want to share the toy, or does he miss his father who has left the home?

Stressful issues occurring in the home are difficult and complicated for youth to handle. A child's behavior may be the result of some change in her life, such as a new baby sister, a move into a different neighborhood, or a recent divorce. Although a parent should not excuse the behavior, attention should be given to the reason behind the behavior.

6. Apologize to your child

Be willing to say "I'm sorry" when you are wrong. Children appreciate genuine apologies as much as adults. There have been times when I have yelled at my daughter for something minor, because I was feeling tired, sick, or stressed. At those times, I have to be responsible and apologize. I pull her onto my lap and say, "Mommy is sorry. I made a mistake. Please forgive me. I love you."

By using these L. E. A. D. E. R. principles, you will be well on your way to discovering the leader in your child. By implementing structure, discipline, and guidance you can help your child develop into the person she was meant to be.

Lisa Davis serves as a Youth Leader at Calvary Church in St. Louis, Missouri. Her professional experience includes speaking, Bible instruction, and teaching in both public and private school settings. Lisa has a B.S. in education from the University of Missouri-Columbia and a Certificate of Completion in the Extraordinary Woman program from the American Association of Christian Counselors. She resides in St. Louis, Missouri with her husband Michael and daughter Elisha.

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