Who we are as adults has a lot to do with where we came from as children. Although our childhood does not always determine our future, it certainly helps mold and shape it. Forbes recently published an article about this, and how certain parenting behaviors inhibit children from becoming future leaders.
As you read the article, evaluate your own childhood and whether any of these traits were present. Did they hinder or help you? Also, consider how you will apply them to being a parent, in present or in future.
The list below is taken from a book published by leadership expert Dr. Tim Elmore, author of “Generation iY: Our Last Change To Save Their Future”. He is the Founder and President of Growing Leaders, an organization dedicated to empowering today’s youth to become the leaders of tomorrow.
1. Not letting children experience risk.
We live in a world where danger is at every turn. Being preoccupied with a “safety first” approach enforces our fear of losing our own kids but also instills phobias in children. Pyschologists in Europe have discovered that if a child doesn’t play outside and is never allowed to experience a skinned knee, they frequently have phobias as adults.
Lesson: Children need to fall a few times to know they can get up again.
2. Rescuing too quickly.
Today’s generation of young adults have not yet developed some of the life skills children did 30 years ago because their parents swoop in and take care of their problems for them. Although their intentions may be good, when parents rescue too quickly they over-indulge their young ones with “assistance”, removing the need for them to solve their own problems.
Lesson: It’s parenting for the short-term and it misses the point of leadership. Parents must equip children with learning lessons that will allow them to tackle the world’s problems on their own.
3. Raving way too easily.
In the 1980s, the self-esteem movement became popular. The concept of the “everyone gets a trophy” idea leaves everyone happy, but research now indicates this method has unintended consequences. Children eventually observe Mom and Dad are the only ones who think they’re awesome, and they begin to doubt the objectivity of their parents.
Lesson: Raving too easily encourages children to cheat, exaggerate and lie to avoid a difficult reality. They have not been conditioned to face it.
4. Let guilt get in the way of leading well.
Parents need to face that their children do not need to love them every minute. Young ones WILLget over disappointment – but they will not get over being spoiled. It is important that parents fight the urge to get children what they want and provide – instead – what they need. When one child is doing well in something, we feel it is unfair to reward one and not the other.
Lesson: Be careful not to teach children that a good grade is rewarded to a trip to the mall. If your relationship is based on material rewards, children will experience neither intrinsic motivation nor unconditional love.
5. Not sharing past mistakes.
Healthy teenagers are going to want to spread their wings, and try things on their own. As adults, parents must let them do so – but that doesn’t mean they cannot help children navigate treacherous waters. Successful parents share with their children the relevant mistakes they made at their children’s age to help them make better choices. Avoid negative “lessons learned” having to do with smoking, alcohol, illegal drugs etc.
Lesson: Share how you felt when you faced a similar experience, what drove your actions, and the resulting lessons learned. Because parents are not the only influence on their children, they should strive to be the best one.
6. Parents mistake intelligence, giftedness and influence for maturity.
Intelligence is often measured as a child’s maturity, and as a result parents assume that an intelligent child is ready to face the world. This is not the case. A case in point is many of today’s professional athletes and Hollywood starlets. Although they possess unimaginable talent, this does not mean they are of the age of responsibility.
Lesson: A good word of thumb is to observe other children the same age. If parents notice other children are doing more themselves than their child does, it is possible their parenting may be delaying their child’s independence.
7. Parents don’t practice what they preach.
It is parents’ responsibility to model the life they want their children to live. Successful parents help their children lead a life of character and become dependable and accountable for their own words and actions. As leaders in their homes, parents should start by speaking only honest words – white lies will surface and slowly erode character.
Lesson: Don’t cut corners. Parent should show their children what it means to give selflessly and joyfully by volunteering for a service project or with a community group. Good parents leave people and places better than you found them, and their children will take note and do the same.