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How to raise your child to be a leader in a follower generation

This video is a great example of what most adults experience every day.  You’re minding your own business when something comes along uninvited and attempts to bring fear or chaos into your world.  How we handle it depends a lot on our predisposition as well as our experience with adversity.  I love how the boy in this video never acts defeated or outmatched.  He simply responds to the enemy with perseverance and determination until he wins the victory.  This article is not about fighting but it is centered around teaching our children how to fight for what’s right.  Unfortunately, our children aren’t always clear on what we think is right.  Additionally, they are often conflicted by the (negatively perceived) emotion we emit while telling them how they may have done something wrong, ie, when parents punish rather than discipline children for some misbehavior.  Allow me to change gears for a second, though.  I want to dig a little deeper and discuss how to raise your child to become a leader in a follower generation.

Without a vision, the people perish (Prov 29:18)

Unless you were raised by a pack of wolves in the wild somewhere with no tv or possibly on another planet with no satellite capabilities, you’ve probably heard of this guy, Bruce Lee.

I grew up watching martial arts movies (Shout out to the Shaw brothers).  The first of many (and still my all-time favorite) was 5 Deadly Venoms.  It was then at my friend Ricky’s freshman year, stay-up-all-night-because-it’s-the-last-day-of-school party that I began to learn about a common martial arts theme:

A young man becoming a warrior accepts a very difficult challenge.  There will be sweat and perseverance.   There will be hardship.  There will be pain.  There will be obstacles.  However, if you have the courage and willingness to fight for what you believe in (mentally, emotionally as well as physically), there will also be victory!

As a parent, I constantly think about what kind of values, skills and attributes I’m passing to my daughter and son.  My actions will always speak louder than my words especially when they are old enough to emulate and reproduce what they have seen from their two most influential forces–me and my wife.  It is the desire to leave behind an inheritance that cannot be measured in dollars.  It is the desire to see my achievement ceiling become the next generation’s achievement foundation.  Isn’t that the nature of an inheritance?  Give your children a head start so that they won’t have to work as hard.  Or is it better to preserve the valuable lessons of enduring trials and tribulations and allow your child to experience chores, hard work and diligent study?

Unfortunately, too many parents have been stung by the desire to shield their children from difficult experiences.  It’s one thing to do things FOR your children.  It’s another thing entirely to do things FOR THE BENEFIT of your child.  One breeds entitlement, laziness and a skewed reality of how the world works.  If you’re familiar with the Love and Logic system of parenting wisdom, you’ll immediately recognize the term, “helicopter parent“.  You know, the parent who SWOOPS in and saves the day for the children so that the child doesn’t have to experience any undue fatigue, grief or sorrow.

When I directed sport camps for jr/sr high kids, I continually witnessed the negative side of children who were raised in this shielded environment.  They had lower self esteem, acted indifferent towards the goals and objectives of their teammates and had very negative attitudes towards hard work.  This in turn affected the other kids around them and often caused other children to start slacking as well.  To say this had a major impact on me is an understatement.  I can attribute these experiences as one of the main reasons I promised myself to learn everything I could about parenting and performance coaching before I became a parent so that I could (try to) avoid the pitfalls of dysfunctional, enabling parenting styles.

If you’ve ever been a boss or leader and had to endure underperforming, entitled, no-initiative-taking people working for you then you know the frustration of wondering where they learned to work so hard little.  This generation has been labeled as lazy and it’s not surprising.

You may be asking yourself how you can avoid this scenario.  The first step in addressing any problem is ALWAYS the assessment.  [You can refer to my other articles about occurrence or asking the right question.] What kind of parent do you wish to be?  What kind of parenting style are you already using?  As a reference let’s utilize Love and Logic.  There are 3 types of parents:

1) The Consultant (Helps children make decision but leaves the ultimate choice to the child which allows the child plenty of practice at making good and bad decisions.  This tends to give more wisdom to the adolescent facing more serious pressures from peers to make harmful or dangerous decisions.)

2) The Helicopter (Flies in during enemy warfare and saves everyone from danger.  Unfortunately, this tends to handicap our little soldiers later in life when they need to make difficult decisions.)

3) The Drill Sergeant (Orders our little soldiers around because it’s obvious they don’t have a mind of their own and can’t do it right, sarcasm intended.  This is the essence of controlling our kids into obedience but often backfires later when our children evolve into young adults and resent authority…especially the parent’s.)

It’s important to make clear goals for what you want your child to value when they become an adult.  If you want your children to honor people, show them honor.  If you want your children to extend grace to others who mistreat or offend them, show them grace.  If you want your children to demonstrate love and forgiveness towards others who deserve an angry response, by all means show your children love and forgiveness.  Model for them the traits that will help them be successful and admired people in their future.  Try to avoid frequently demonstrating any negative traits such as unforgiveness, short-tempered anger, selfishness or any other self-centered characteristics.  And if you do, show them how quickly and earnestly you can apologize to them.

Here are some undesirable recipes for dysfunctional family dynamics.  If you want an angry child who defies his/her parent(s), try to routinely control them and make them rebel against you once they’ve become an adolescent.  If you want a lazy child, do everything for them so that they grow up with the expectation that someone else will always be there to do their dirty work.  If you want a hard-working child, give them chores and esteem-building responsibilities as a child that fosters a strong sense of worth and accomplishment.  No need to argue or give long explanations as to why they have to do it.  Simply tell them, “That’s how we help and support each other in this family!”  Love is always the strongest glue a family can be held together by.

After we assess our own preferences for parenting styles, we need to form a vision, mission statement or other big picture that serves as a guide for our speech and actions regarding our parenting practices.  For instance, I desire that my daughter/son and any subsequent children be hard-working, ambitious adults who concomitantly understand the value of serving others.  Having power and abusing power are in stark contrast to one another.  In order for my daughter to lead others, I need to instill self esteem and confidence in her heart and solidify in her mind that she is loved unconditionally.  I need to give her responsibilities and authority so she can practice being in charge of things.  Whenever she messes up or makes a bad decision, I simply allow her to bear the consequences and reiterate my confidence in and love for her so she can get right back up and do it again.

Great leaders all do this with their children, employees, players or volunteers.  This is an exit strategy of the people kind.  If you spend time equipping people to take your place, nothing changes when you retire or move on to something new.  This is why coaches must allow their rookies and young players to have an opportunity to both succeed AND FAIL in a safe environment.

As always, feel free to contact me for help and further clarification.  In the meantime, check out our other articles and let us know how any of our strategies have benefitted you or those you can share this info with.  Thanks for stopping by!


Chad Hackler

About Chad Hackler

Chad has been ascertaining, evaluating, refining and creating leadership solutions for over 21 years. Trained as a professional strength and conditioning coach specializing in NFL, NHL and collegiate football players, Chad has also been a psychology nut which has aided his ability to create personalized solutions as a leadership specialist. Chad is also a passionate Christian speaker who challenges leaders and groups to perform at high levels of achievement.

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