How to Create Great Future Leaders Out of Our Children
“Here’s my video. Make sure to like and comment!”
The above is message I received from a kid who is my son’s age. No please, no respectfully addressing the adult he’s messaging, no thank you. Nothing.
Who raised this ill-mannered child?
Today’s child is governed by his or her smartphone, just like the adults around him or her. Today’s youth is full of doubts, lost and unsure of what answers to look for.
A child that is disconnected from his or her ability as an individual pays a heavy price — they have no peace and they struggle with relationships and direction in life.
Who is to blame?
As parents it is our responsibility to bring up a functional, independent and respectful citizen of the world. In other words, we have to be living examples of the type of person we want our children to become.
And if so, who is responsible for this self-leadership? Us. We are.
Today parents have an even more responsible job to help children discern given the early access to technology that children have.
As parents we have to think hard. Think. Because that’s the skill we will need to pass down. If you want your child to be successful as an individual, you want them to cultivate their capacity to think and then do things for themselves so that when you are not around, they can do that for themselves and problem solve! They learn about patience and their potential when you show it to them.
My hope with the examples stories posed with regards to the essential life skills will give you a glimpse into a better projected future of your child(ren).
1. Giving the child space to make a mess
Whether at home or in restaurants, today you may find parents putting devices in front of their toddlers when they’re being fed. Their little child doesn’t learn how to feed him or herself. That child doesn’t know how the food on her plate reaches his or her stomach. If the device is taken away from her, she can’t eat. She throws tantrums. She is learning to be impatient, distracted, ill-mannered and helpless. When she goes to nursery or kindergarten, she will wonder what to do with her body, her hands and arms. She will be expected to be civil at the table with everyone and eat her snack.
The child is very much capable of feeding him or herself. Of course they may very well mess up their clothes, face or the table. Either the parent worries about the mess and the cleaning up they’d have to do, or they think it’s cute to feed them because they are little. If the family has a helper, then it becomes the helper’s job to feed their child.
Children being little at that age might make it seem that there won’t be as much a problem once they’re older. That assumption is very wrong because children are learning from a young age how to be in the world by how they conduct themselves around their parents or immediate care-givers.
This child whose house I was visiting recently was sitting with her father at the dining table with a sketch pad and crayons. Dinner was about to be served soon. So her parents wanted to move her things which is a completely and utterly unreasonable thing to do to a 2.5 year old child engrossed in her world of art. To the child who hasn’t been appropriately communicated to, the parents are ruining her playtime, her imagination, her everything. She will rebel against them.
The problem wasn’t what she was doing, it was where she was doing it. If she were to do the exact same thing in her little corner of art, with her parent or by herself, then the problem to move her sketch pad and crayons wouldn’t arise.
There might also be another problem. That would be to get her to eat. There was obviously no communication prior to the art activity occurring at the dining table. No one explained to the smart child that she’d have to say ‘bye-bye’ to the crayons and sketch pad for a short while because it would be time for dinner soon, promising her that the activity could be resumed after she successfully fed herself like a 2.5 year old girl absolutely is capable of. Distractions and toys of all kinds are available to her, and the adults around her are at her beck and call, attending to her every cry with zero ability to communicate “No” to her effectively.
Most parents want to get the kid-feeding over and done with. The child may or may not understand this breakfast-lunch-dinner routine. What’s more important is for them to understand hunger.
What’s more important is
- for them to be able to communicate when they are hungry.
- for the parent is to be attentive and listen to their different cries and know the difference among them.
- to empower the child to speak for themselves.
- for parent to not complete or try to complete their sentences out of impatience as their child learns to speak.
- to teach them to communication and patience by example and not opinion.
Children learn from observing their parents. They don’t do what they’re told because they copy and follow their parents’ footsteps. Today’s (adult) parent isn’t emotionally available to their child. Today’s parent is very busy and hence rather distracted.
We all said goodbye to her crayons and sketching pad as she was bribed with chocolate cake after dinner in order to get her to ready for the soon-to-be-served dinner. During dinner, she had her father’s smartphone placed before her, playing a cartoon movie. Her eyes were glued to the screen as the helper feed her.
She is also learning to be mindless and oblivious to how her behavior impacts others. She’s being taught that it’s okay to listen to or watch with the sound from device exposed to those who may have zero interest in it. This speaks volumes about the parent’s level of awareness. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
As hard as it maybe, the effort a parent puts in earlier on will pay off highly in the future. They wouldn’t have to teach the child how to behave while eating anymore because they taught child how to do that him or herself at early on. That skill will serve him or her for the rest of his or her life. The investment and patience are totally worth it.
You may think that a child that young doesn’t have that ability to feed and do things for themselves. I will challenge your opinion. Children are very advanced beings from whom we can learn to be better parents and better humans if and when we give ourselves the chance to observe them.
So when your child is making a mess at the dining table, she is learning to feed herself. She’s learning in very little ways to be capable, independent and in doing so successfully without distractions in her face, she’s learning to eat mindfully.
Doing this will transform your child into a responsible, independent and very much capable adult. Isn’t that what every parent wants for their child?
2. Teaching your child to help themselves
Below is an example of what that helplessness looks like.
There’s a patio at this child’s house and we sat in the swinging chair to enjoy the early evening after our lovely dinner. Besides the swinging chair, there was a table and chairs and a trampoline. She (the 2.5 year old kid) brought her water bottle out with her and put it on the table, and played for a bit in the trampoline. We decided to go back inside as the mosquitoes started feasting on our post-dinner blood.
She came back inside and forgot to bring her water bottle on the table outside. We continued playing indoors with her kitchen play, and chasing and being chased by a clown mask. She was really excited by the clown mask and wanted every adult around to chase her. We got tired after rounds of running after her. We sat in the sofa looking out to the patio. The glass door to the patio was closed to keep out the mosquitoes.
I asked her, “Where’s your water bottle?” She ran to her kitchen and came back with a baby bottle. I said, “No, not this one. Where is YOUR water bottle?” Her hyper-excited self went running back to her kitchen to bring some other pretend toy bottle. I said, “No sweetie, not this one.”
I figured she needed more appropriate direction. So I pointed my finger to her water bottle atop the table that was clearly visible from the glass door. “Look outside. Do you remember where you put your water bottle?”
When her eyes located the water bottle, she burst out crying! She felt helpless.
The crying is what usually brings her immediate attention from her parents. That is a lot of unnecessary attention which teaches her nothing about how she can help herself or think for herself. So that was her normal reaction to her feeling helpless about the water bottle she forgot outside.
I calmly asked her to “let’s go get your water bottle”. I walked with her to the glass door. She was easily able to open the sliding glass door, get her water bottle and come right back in. No crying. No drama.
3. Seeing your child struggle = Believing in your child’s genius
When he was only six years old, my son was fascinated by airplanes and aerodynamics. He couldn’t get enough of their functionality. He wanted to understand everything about how airplanes worked. At the time, his was fixated on landing gears. I wanted to challenge his problem solving skills as math was a subject he struggled with quite a bit. I realized that playing LEGO helps creative thinking, teamwork, communication, conflict resolution and problem-solving skills.
So I bought an age-appropriate LEGO airplane set. One summer afternoon we sat down to build the airplane with the blocks. Page by page, layer by layer, he used his visual spatial skills with my guidance and built the airplane. When putting together certain pieces became too challenging for him, I showed him how it was done, and then I undid it for him to reenact. Although the challenge was tiring for him, what motivated him was its culmination and the reward that awaited at the end of his hard work.
After 2.5 hours of unwavering determination, he was one happy boy. I congratulated him on his achievement and left him alone to play with his new creation while I went to prepare lunch for us.
A stepped out of the kitchen briefly to check on what he was up to. To my utter surprise, he had figured out how to manipulate one of the blocks to make the landing gear tilt upon landing his plane. Our eyes met. The excitement of his little discovery was beaming in his eyes. I matched his excitement, went on my knees, gave him a big hug and a kiss, and I told him, “Do you know that you are a genius?”
Time has flown since then, and his ability to access his genius and surprise himself (and me) keeps unfolding in our experiences. Each time he comes to me with doubts or questions his own ability, I remind him:
- of people who were academically challenged as children and now are successful businessmen and women.
- that we’re more than the labels we’re given.
- to trust his abilities and believe in his genius.
Allow your child to:
- make a mess because he or she is learning things about his/her abilities.
- think for themselves and problem-solve
- struggle, while you guide him or her along side, totally trusting and believing in his/her genius.
You might also enjoy these stories. Teaching children how to use technology mindfully is our job. This will make them kind and considerate adults. And for that to happen, we must lead ourselves by example.
This post was previously published on medium.com.
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