This post is sponsored by Responsibility.org, which I am proud to be an ambassador for in 2019.
One of my life’s greatest gifts have been opportunities to demonstrate leadership. From the time I was very young, my life has been peppered with leadership experiences. Whether it’s at work or at home or in my community, rallying people together around an idea, cause, or action and (hopefully) inspiring excellence and positivity has always felt very natural for me.
Without question, the leadership experiences I had as a child and adult influence the way I parent. When I consider all the things that today’s kids encounter during their tween and teen years—the opportunities, the challenges, the temptations— I believe teaching leadership is a skill that can make a big difference. Matthew and I work hard to inspire our kids to become leaders among their classmates, peer groups, teams, and communities that they engage.
But how does one do that effectively? My love and ease for leading and my ability to inspire my kids to become comfortable in leadership roles are two very different things.
Inspiring Good Choices Through Leadership
I was once again reminded of this parental duty last October when Matthew had the privilege of joining other social media influencers at a round table summit lead by Responsibility.org. As you might know, Responsibility.org’s focus is to empower parents to engage their kids early on with conversations about alcohol. (Seriously, if you haven’t checked out their Talk Early resources, you really need to.) Moreover, with April being Alcohol Responsibility Month, it’s the perfect time to remind us all about starting conversations around difficult topics early on, including talks about alcohol. But as we know, it’s not all about talking and educating, it’s also about raising kids who can make good choices in a variety of situations.
And one of the ways to inspire good choices is to inspire children to lead.
Matthew raved about his experience from the fall. One of his favorite moments during the summit was hearing and learning from US Soccer Champion and Olympic gold medalist Julie Foudy. All three of our children play soccer, so the opportunity to hear from Julie was especially profound. In addition to offering wisdom about how she inspires her own children to embrace leadership, Julie led a round table discussion about the unique challenges that each family encountered in their own parenting stories.
Check out this brief clip
This statement was really impactful to me as Type-A, strong-willed individual, because I sometimes expect leadership from other people to look exactly like my own. Moreover, I’ll sometimes catch myself trying to bring out my own brand of leadership in my kids. And like Julie said, leaders can be passionate or loud or quiet and cerebral. And as parents, in our attempts to encourage leader-like qualities in our kids, it’s so important for us to also consider that just like there’s no one way to be leader, it’s crucial for us to know that leadership might transpire differently in our children than it does in us. And too, what leadership looks like in one of our kids might be very different than how it looks in another.
Celebrate Leader-like Qualities in Your Children
The other big takeaway for Matthew and me was when Julie talked about the importance of celebrating the leader-like qualities that you see in your kids. And she was quick to encourage parents to remember that leadership isn’t all about confidence or being able to perform well-crafted talks in front of large groups, that it’s also about being a good listener, being creative, being vulnerable and encouraging other people around you. This past weekend, Elias played in a big soccer tournament and afterward I commended him on the ways he worked with his team, respected the players, and listened to his coach.
Recognizing our children’s own unique leadership styles and understanding that these styles might change or evolve with age and experience is so important. Because at the end of the day, we want to help inspire our kids to make good, educated, and responsible choices. And while this most certainly applies to the choices that our kids will make regarding alcohol and/or underage drinking, it also applies to other decisions like choosing a college, managing their time, and how they engage relationships with their peers, other adults, and significant others.
This week, I want to encourage you to make a point to celebrate the leader-like qualities you see in your children. Pop a note in your child’s lunch box, or have a meaningful conversation before bed. Your intentionality will make a difference in the life, both in the here and now and in the future. And, in honor of Alcohol Awareness month, check out the Talk Early resources from Responsibility.org. I know you’ll be inspired and empowered.