Monday, February 16, 2015

Help Preschoolers Develop Leadership Skills

What helps a child become a leader? Long ago, a friend told me she was so happy when it was her child’s turn to be the head of the line, as this family wanted the child to become a leader in the class. While most of us assign a different child to be the line leader each day or week, this is not the way to encourage leadership skills. We need to first think about what kind of leadership qualities we want our children to exhibit.

Considering this question would be a good exercise for a staff meeting or could become part of a family night or conference.

Here are a few qualities we think are appropriate for preschoolers:

·      listening to their peers
·      working well with other children
·      accepting challenges
·      believing in their own abilities
·      learning from mistakes
·      solving problems creatively

Teachers and families can play an important role in helping children develop these qualities. We should always keep them in mind as we interact with children.  One of the best things we can say to a child is to compliment them on their leadership. For example, Scott is playing with blocks and begins making a tower by placing small blocks on the bottom. The larger blocks he places on top cause his tower to fall. Then Scott begins building the tower again, using larger blocks on the bottom.

Your words can reinforce Scott’s leadership qualities. You can say, “Scott, you showed great leadership when you didn’t cry. You tried again. That’s leadership! You believed you could build a good tower. That’s leadership! You learned from your first mistake. That’s leadership!”

By naming a specific behavior and then telling the child that this behavior is leadership helps the child connect his or her behaviors with the positive aspects of leadership. This helps more than words on a poster or repeating a leadership pledge. It connects specific occurrences in a child’s day with leadership qualities. It makes leadership real!

So…remember this:

You showed leadership when you _______ (exactly what the child did).  You________ (say a specific quality from your leadership list). That’s leadership (name the target goal).

Standards Alignment:
NAEYC – 2.B.; 2.L. 01. & 02.
Head Start – II.A. & B.; IV.B.; VI. A.

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