In Part 1 of this series, I made a bold, maybe even controversial, assertion that all children are natural born leaders. Accepting this claim requires us to think more clearly as to what leadership really entails. Leadership is simply the art of influence. As indicated by scripture (Ephesians 2:10) our children were created to do good words which God prepared in advance for them to do. The duty of parenting is then to create a leadership culture in your home. In Part 2, we closely examine the importance of tailoring this leadership planning based on your child’s gifts.
Based on the biblical guidance in Proverbs 22:6, parents are instructed to “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” In Part 1, we examined the first part of this instruction. What exactly does it mean to “train up a child”? As noted, it is best captured in three admonitions.
- Teach them to know their Creator
- Teach them to walk worthy of their Christian heritage
- Teach them to discern and pursue their life’s purpose
Part 2, however, examines a key qualifier in how a parent is to train up a child—which is based on knowing “the way he should go”. This qualification is critical because it gets to the uniqueness of your child. Your son and daughter are unique and wonderfully made (Psalms 139:14). Training them requires that you discern the way that each child should go. Because each of your children is different, develop each’s leadership skill is necessarily different. You cannot employ a same size fits all approach to parenting.
Five ways to train up a child in the way he should go
- Follow the signs
The first step to discern the way your child should go is to look for those indicators of interest and abilities. Here are a few good questions to ask yourself. What type of things interest your child? Is he more artistically or athletically inclined? What skills are evident? Towards what type of things do teachers, family, and friends say that your child shows particular promise?
One of the things with which we parents often struggle is listening for the child’s potential rather than imposing our own desires on the child. In fairness, it isn’t always so easy to tell. With my eldest child, I struggled with valuing his interest in dancing in high school. Honestly, I thought it was a waste of time that would distract him from his school work. Let’s just say today that he is a graduate student completing a Master’s of Fine Arts in Dance at Ohio State University.
- Support core subjects
School performance is the key “job” for most kids. If your child is struggling in school it impacts her self-confidence. As a child handles school subjects well they create the cognitive and chronological space to pursue other interests as well. It When school subjects are handled well parents are also able to stay more positive about the child’s performance.
Stay aggressive in supporting your child’s school subjects. Don’t make any assumptions about how they are doing. Many times they will just say “fine”. Personally, I regularly look at my daughter’s grades online, making sure to ask her about any concerns. I follow up with teachers with things that appear problematic. Don’t be afraid to get them tutoring when necessary.
One of your child’s primary domains of leadership and influence will be at school. When they have command of core subjects other things tend to fall into place.
- Focus on strengths
All children have strengths. Those strengths may be indicators of your child’s purpose. But, often times as parents we focus on the child’s weaknesses more than strengths. We may fuss with them about the weaknesses. We may punish the weaknesses. In other words, weaknesses get so much attention. The problem is that this comes at a cost. With such attention on weaknesses, there is a lack of attention on strengths.
By putting more focus on your child’s strengths you help her achieve mastery. Mastery then places her in an exceptional position often with significant exposure whether that be artistry, athletics, academics, or other areas.
- Push more social
Leadership requires social skills. No, it doesn’t mean that every child should be a keynote speaker in front of large audiences. But, it does mean that children’s social skills should be encouraged. My wife and I required our children to participate in community organizations in which their public speaking skills were developed.
Social engagement isn’t just about speaking. It is all types of communication. For example, we enroll my daughter in a teen writer’s program every year to develop her writing skills.
Bringing forth the leader within your child ultimately requires them to communicate in some fashion—whether that is true dance, music, speech, poetry, non-fiction, or other medium. Helping them understand the social implications of what they do benefits them for years to come. But, it starts with understanding the social dynamics of your child and how their gifts can best connect with others.
- Embrace the struggle
The final step in how to train your child in the way he should is to accept that it is alway a struggle to get it just right. In fact, you probably won’t. It is better understood as an iterative process—trial and error. That is the way that progress is made. As a parent, you’ll have to adjust what you did with your eldest when you are developing your youngest. In your efforts to discern those latent talents of your child, sometimes you’ll get it wrong. Don’t be hard on yourself. Just keep listening. As your child ages adjustments must be made. Just keep listening. In the end, your child will know that he is a priority. Kids just want to know that they matter to you. You don’t have to get everything right. You just have to stay positive in the struggle.
What way should your child go? I would love to hear your comments.
Be sure to check back for part 3 of this series where we will focus on the final part of this verse, “when he is old he will not depart from it”. Looking forward to sharing these insights with you.
Don’t forget you can get your FREE copy of “The 10 Steps to Your Extraordinary Influence” at haroldarnold.com