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How to Teach Leadership Skills to Kids

By Sally Murphy ; Updated April 18, 2017
Smiling group of children on grass

When adults encourage children to develop leadership skills, it's one of the best ways to guarantee them a bright future. Children start benefiting from leadership skills at almost any age. Not only will they gain more self-esteem and interact more easily and effectively with their peers, they can also make an impact on their community. These qualities will continue to develop and evolve as children grow up. Whether you're a parent or educator, you can use simple techniques to support and nourish leadership qualities in children.

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Discuss peer pressure. Children and teenagers are often susceptible to peer pressure, and worry about how others view them. Many kids will try out negative behavior in order to fit in socially. Talk with your child or student about the importance of avoiding peer pressure. Leadership requires being empathetic and socially involved, but still honoring personal morals, convictions, and standards. Discuss hypothetical peer pressure situations and ask kids to consider how they'd behave in different situations. Children who are self-aware have a greater ability to lead.

Encourage children to express themselves. When they're able to clearly and confidently vocalize their thoughts, opinions and ideals, they feel more self-assured and able to deal with complex problems. You can help by encouraging children to speak out and by listening seriously to what they have to say. Although many children go through rebellious stages, don't ignore angry outbursts or enforce silence. Instead, suggest alternative ways of self-expression. Learning to speak assertively and diplomatically is a cornerstone of leadership.

Teach by example. Children observe the adults in their lives, and internalize the behavior and values they see. Even if they doesn't express it aloud, children may be looking to you as a role model. Model leadership behavior by helping others, volunteering in leadership positions and taking initiatives in everyday life. Share stories about the benefits and challenges of following your own convictions or helping others in need.

Find volunteer and community service opportunities. Firsthand experience is one of the best ways to teach leadership skills to kids. Look for local opportunities that will welcome youth helpers and volunteers. Some ideas include soup kitchens, homeless shelters, pet shelters, disaster relief programs or peer tutoring programs. These experiences will empower children and teach them how to have a positive impact on others. If there are no opportunities nearby, you can encourage children to start their own outreach services.

Nurture children's individual talents and encourage participation. Every child has potential for leadership skills, but not every child develops skills in the same way. Pay attention to specific interests, passions and abilities. A child might be a talented athlete or skilled at painting and drawing. Find ways for kids to develop these skills in a group setting, which promotes teamwork and social skills. You can also encourage children to look for leadership opportunities within clubs and organizations that need active members.

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About the Author

Sally Murphy began writing professionally in 2000. She has worked as a writing instructor and written for various organizations and publications on topics ranging from history to hairstyles to television shows. Murphy graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in English and also holds a Master of Fine Arts in writing.

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