9 ways you’re undermining your children’s chances of becoming leaders
There’s a new campaign getting some media attention this week.
Ban Bossy was founded by Lean In founder/Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, along with the Girl Scouts, and counts Beyonce, Jane Lynch and Condoleezza Rice among its spokespeople. The idea is to stop people from calling little girls “bossy.”
The website reads:
“When a little boy asserts himself, he’s called a ‘leader.’ Yet when a little girl does the same, she risks being branded ‘bossy.’ Words like bossy send a message: don’t raise your hand or speak up. By middle school, girls are less interested in leading than boys—a trend that continues into adulthood. Together we can encourage girls to lead.”
This resonates with me because I was always called “bossy” as a child.
I always thought the problem was with me, and never questioned this. So, it’s interesting to view this perspective. Maybe I wasn’t a jerk. Maybe I was just a born leader. Well, it’s too late for me. But not for other little girls.
While there’s some debate over it in the blogosphere right now, I agree that the word “bossy” is damaging to girls and that people should at least think twice before using it.
But it’s not the only way we’re undermining our kids and their futures.
- Not letting children experience risk
Helicopter parenting, anyone? You know you do it. I have friends who bought her toddler son a helmet – and I use them as an example of craziness every time someone accuses me of being an overprotective parent, even though they’ve never actually made him wear it.
Rescuing too quickly
We’re so quick to jump in and help. “I’ll do it!” we want to cry when we see them struggle. But life is struggle. You’re best to learn it early.
Raving too easily
“You’re so smart!” “You’re so good at this!” “You’re amazing!”
Sound familiar? I clap and shout “Hurray!” like, 50 times a day.
Elmore says your kids will eventually figure out that you’re their only superfans, and begin to doubt your objectivity. They also need to learn the value of real effort and its reward.
Letting guilt get in the way of leading well
Spoiling by guilt is a real danger. Your child can’t feel fantastic about themselves and you every moment of every day. Elmore also points out that parents of multiple children tend to reward the others when one does well, to avoid leaving anyone out.
Not sharing our past mistakes
Sharing your valuable experience can teach great lessons. Elmore suggests avoiding “negative lessons learned” involving alcohol, smoking and drugs, but I don’t see why you should. It’s all potentially valuable.
Mistaking intelligence, giftedness and influence for maturity
There are different kinds of intelligence. Being math smart doesn’t make one socially smart. Doogie Howser had his own set of problems. Even a child genius can flounder in certain areas – though some to go on to great things. Check out these youngest university grads and see how they fared.
Not practicing what we preach
Consider the immortal words of the Beastie Boys: “Your dad caught you smoking and he said ‘No way!’ That hypocrite smokes two packs a day.”
Consider the example you are setting in all things. Elmore says, “As parents, it is our responsibility to model the life we want our children to live.”
I contacted Elmore and he added
Trying to be their friend too soon
“In the morning, be their coach; at mealtime, their teacher; and at bedtime, their counselor. Once we’ve instilled the qualities our children need to become capable adults and leaders, then there will be times when it’s appropriate to be your child’s ‘friend.’ But, our job will still always be to raise our children, however long that takes. Remember that friendships come and go, but once a parent always a parent.”
Here are some of Elmore’s “Dos” for raising leaders.
- 1. Discuss ways to make good choices while letting them make their own along the way.
2. Help them take calculated risks and learn to recognize reward and consequence.
3. Share and interpret your “risky” experiences from your teenage years.
4. Affirm smart risk-taking and hard work.
5. Don’t reward the “basics” that life requires
Nobody needs to get a medal for making their own bed.
Finally, he said it’s important to let kids know it’s OK to go against the grain.
“We don’t always want our children to follow the crowd, but instead form their own identity and lead themselves. We want our children to know that it’s okay to live a life that is different from mainstream society.”