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Five Ways to Help Children Become Leaders

I want my children to grow up to be leaders. This doesn't mean that I necessarily wish for them to be CEOs, or heads of state, or be in charge of large groups of people.

But that's not my definition of a leader. A leader is someone who obeys the calling God has for his or her lives, a person who isn't swayed by popular opinion or the whims of the world. Leaders are not made by their title or position, but by their actions and their heart.

A leader leads and influences others by the way they live and love. Whether you are a parent, aunt, coach, or mentor to a young person, you have the great honor of being able to help raise a future leader.

Here are five ways my husband and I parent our five sons to help build leadership qualities in them:

1. Let Them Fail

If you aren't occasionally failing, you aren't attempting to try new things. Many adults are ashamed of failing, but we never should be. Failing means we are trying, we are living, and we are learning. Failure is the mark of a strong person who takes risks. Without failure, a future leader will never develop perseverance.

The Bible is full of people who failed and still did great things for God. Just look at Peter, the man who denied Christ three times but was still called by Jesus to lead and "feed His sheep".

2. Praise Their Effort

We all want our kids to have a solid sense of self-esteem, and it can be tempting to bolster their egos by letting them know how proud we are of everything they do. But constantly praising a bigger kid like he just won a Nobel Peace Prize when he only carried his socks to the hamper doesn't serve him well. It will dilute the impact of your praise. It can also reduce their motivation if they start to believe they are always amazing. The best leaders are motivated by their faith and genuine care for others, not motivated by praise of the world.

3. Let Them Be Disappointed

Of course, children need to trust their parents for a feeling of safety and constancy. That doesn't mean that we need to be all things to them at all times. It's OK if they are disappointed that they can't join their friends for an afternoon movie, or you can't play a game with them right now, or they can't have the toy all of their friends want. Saying "no" is a part of parenting; learning how to handle minor letdowns will give them the skills to handle life's bigger disappointments with maturity.

4. Let Them Do Their Own Work

We've all heard the stories of parents contacting their college-aged students' professors to ask why they didn't get a 4.0. That impulse may come from a place of love and concern, but those "children" need to stand on their own two feet.

I start young with my boys. I don't assist with projects unless they need something only an adult can do. On the wall in the classroom? It's obvious that my boys' projects are actually made by a child, not his parents.

5. Teach Them to Lead with Love

Being a leader doesn't mean you get to boss around your friends on the ball field, at school, or out in the neighborhood. Real leaders influence others because of their love. Jesus modeled servant leadership to his disciples because real leadership, the kind that changes hearts and minds, always leads with love.

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