Is it good to encourage children to be leaders?

Author: Maja Antonic, psychologist, Center for Child Psychotherapy 'Priča o vili'

Maja Antonic

Each child is an individual and is born with a particular character. What is built through life are skills, habits, and knowledge whose adoption depends on many factors. In the first years of a child's life, parents are the people who have the greatest contribution in building the foundation for an individual's development. This development expands on several levels and relates to how the child will see himself, how free he will be to explore the world around him, whether he will be free to make social contacts and in what way, how freely he will adopt new skills, etc.

The ways in which parents contribute to this are different, and some of the most important are how responsive they are to the child's needs, how they encourage the child and react to success or failure, and what model they provide to their children through personal example.

In order for the child to be better motivated to acquire new skills, the best strategy is to start from the skills/knowledge he already possesses. When starting from the familiar, the first step must be successful, and there is no person who does not like to succeed at what she does. Success leads to motivation and readiness for the next step, which may include some new elements. Thus, each subsequent step needs to be introduced gradually so that the child is encouraged to venture into the unknown.

If you gave a child a basketball and instructed him to slam dunk, you would make him reject basketball for good because he would be doomed to failure from the start. On the contrary, if you and your child first played catch and then tapped the ball or lifted him to the hoop to slam dunk, he would acquire positive emotions related to the sport and would venture to try playing it with more ease. An example of that in the functioning of adults would be that someone would rarely lead a team without previously knowing the field well and being first in the place of his current subordinates.

We often see great expectations and ambitions in parents regarding the future of their children. It is okay to want the best for our children and to have big dreams about their future, but still parents should not put pressure and insist on the path that the child should take.

As I stated at the beginning, children are born with a certain character and certain personality traits and no matter how difficult it may be for us to accept it, sometimes a child is simply not born for the goals we have envisioned for him.

It is important to keep in mind that parents are the most important figures for the child and that accordingly (especially at a younger age, but also later) he will do anything to "earn" their love. In accordance with that, it is very likely that he will accept the wishes and intentions of his parents, even though he is wholeheartedly against them. It is recommended to observe your child, to learn about him from his reactions, behavior, play, ways of interacting with the environment, and when you get to know him in accordance with who he is, to offer him appropriate activities.

If you see that your child does not know how to draw a line, do not send him to painting school. Offer him something that is in line with his nature, characters, interests. An activity he enjoys and has a chance of being successful at.

Not all of us are born as musicians, or as writers, or born for sports, but surely each of us possesses talent and something that is good. It is important to find and recognize that good, and then nurture it. When this happens, our child will be motivated, successful, and chances are good that he or she will be a leader in this.

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