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Tuesday, September 21, 2021

How to teach your children leadership skills



Guest post by Geoff Taylor, the Head of Young Learners at the British Council in Malaysia

Good leaders can communicate well, motivate others, handle responsibility, understand different views and solve problems. A good leader is also inspirational and can communicate a positive view of any situation. Developing these attributes can help our children lead happier and more fulfilling lives. So how can we help our children become great leaders?

Teaching optimism

Having a positive outlook is linked to success. The key to teaching this is to notice when your child is feeling negative. If your child is focussing on the possible negative outcomes (but what if I can’t do it? But what if everyone laughs at me?) ask them why they are choosing to think about negative outcomes when they could be thinking about positive outcomes (but what if I do it and it is amazing? What if everyone gives me a round of applause?) Likewise, when they are feeling positive, notice this too and praise them for having a great attitude. Obviously, our children will fail sometimes and may feel bad as a result. We want to protect them from this bad feeling, but it is more important to help them to embrace the failure, reflect on it and learn from it. Talking about this is the key, “I know you feel bad now, but I promise you it won’t last. Let’s focus on what you will do differently next time.” Our children may go on to remember a failure as being the most important steppingstone to a great success.

Teaching people skills

Encourage your children to get involved in group activities. Nature clubs, football teams, swimming, reading or chess clubs, playing music in a group - anything where they will spend time trying to collectively achieve something with others. Your child will develop emotional intelligence, sympathy, empathy, and problem-solving skills through participating in group activities. Children learn through watching other people, so they will learn from the leader of the group. How do they establish rules? How do they deal with different personalities? How do they manage expectations? Hopefully your child will have fun too!

Teaching negotiation

Children need to constantly negotiate for what they want, because they are completely dependent on adults to give it to them. It is important that we help them learn that throwing a tantrum is not the best approach. We need to teach them to see things from the other person’s point of view and maintain a calm and respectful attitude. We can do this by expressing our concerns when they ask for something. For example, if a child asks us for a new toy, we can say that we are concerned that it might distract them from their homework. Let them come up with reasonable arguments as to why they should get the toy, and see if you can reach an agreement whereby, for example, they can have the toy but only if they agree to do their homework before they play with it. We then need to be consistent in sticking to this agreement, not only in ensuring they do their homework, but also in ensuring they have plenty of time for play.

Teaching decision making

As they get older, children become more independent. They will increasingly need to learn how to make decisions for themselves. A particularly powerful way to help them learn is to tell them how we would make the decision. We should explain our thought process to them so they can copy and then (hopefully) even improve on our way of thinking. We can allow children to start making small decisions, such as which after school activity they would like to do, and as they learn the concepts of responsibility and that decision making has consequences, we can allow them to make more and more decisions for themselves.

Encouraging hard work

Being able to accomplish ambitious tasks is part of being a successful leader. When our children feel overwhelmed by expectations, we can teach them to break the task down into smaller, achievable chunks. For example, if the child has a large amount of homework to do, we can help them to start small, “Let’s look at the maths together for 15 minutes, then you can take a break.” When the maths is done give them a short break as a reward and move onto the English for 15 minutes, then have another short break. If they get frustrated, talk them through how they are feeling and help them to solve the problem. It is better to guide them to do the work themselves, no matter how tempting it is to just do it for them. When they have completed their homework, tell them how proud you are. They have done what seemed impossible.

At the British Council we help children develop ‘core skills’ as well as English. Areas such as leadership, critical thinking, self-confidence, and effective communication are a vital part of our courses. For example, a common activity is for children to work collaboratively when researching a topic and then present their findings to the class. We can give them different roles and responsibilities in the group, and ensure each child has the chance to be the ‘group leader’ throughout the term. Through simple activities like this we give them children skills that will, hopefully, benefit them for a lifetime.

Join our September intake and take advantage of our new weekday online English classes at an introductory price of only RM599! Contact us today.

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