There is a lot of talk in Christian circles about raising leaders. Every parent wants their child to grow up and be able to take charge when necessary; to be successful in whatever field they end up in. So we read books, blog posts, and listen to podcasts helping us raise children who are leaders. I personally don’t think there is anything wrong with this as long as we remember that when it comes to leadership there is no such thing as autonomy.
The promise of rising to the top and being our own boss is alluring. And if we aren’t careful we can create false and unhealthy goals for our children. If they are pushed to be a leader and start believing that someday they won’t need to answer to anyone, they will forever feel like a failure.
Senior Pastors have elders or a counsel, small business owners have customers, and even the CEO’s of fortune 500 companies have a board of directors that they have to answer to. It doesn’t matter how far up the leadership latter your child climbs they will still have people they need to answer to.
Maybe we would be better to teach our children to be followers. Now I am not saying we tell them not to lead. But their leadership needs to be within the bounds allowed to them. We need to help them learn how to be in authority while under authority.
This current generation needs to learn that being under authority is a blessing and protection, but so often our language as parents teach them that authority is a bad thing as we should push for “freedom”.
So how do we raise successful follower?
I should warn you my oldest is only 7. Everything I am going to layout is my working theory. I would also invite you to help me develop this theory through conversations in the comments below.
1. Help your children identify who is worth following.
C is always watching what gets a reaction out of people and is quick to jump into the fun to get a laugh. Often when we are at a park she will see a child being naughty and will start mimicking their actions. During these times we have conversations asking her questions like “do you think the behavior is something you should copy?” or “what do you think will happen if you follow what they are doing?” These questions are an attempt to teach her to watch who to follow.
No matter how strong of a leader your child is they will follow someone. Have conversations with them to help them identify who is worth following and who is not.
2. Give your child permission to lead under authority
One of the times I do this is when our children have friends over. My children have a pretty good understanding of the expectations in my home. Their friends don’t. Every family has different standards and I can’t expect a child coming into my home to know what is and is not allowed. So I try not to scold my kid’s friends when expectations aren’t being met. Instead, I talk to my kids and explain to them that their friends need them to set a standard. My children are responsible to keep their friends in line at our home.
This places my children in a position of leadership, but their leadership is still under my authority. Some people may push back on me for this being too hard on my kids but isn’t this how the real world works? Doesn’t the responsibility land on the leader?
3. When they fail, help them up, and help them learn
When children fail there tend to be two types of parents. The ones that are overly compassionate and run to pick their child up, protect them, and keep them from injury. And there are the parents that don’t want wimps so they say things like “get over it”, or “if it’s not bleeding I don’t want to see any tears”.
We should probably start pushing for a happy medium with this. When our kids fail we don’t need to run to them. Let’s sit back and see what happens. But when the conversation starts let’s speak with compassion and grace.
Think about a child crashing on their bike. Half the time if you act like you didn’t see them fall they will get up and keep going (at least my kids) but the other half of the time they need help. These are the times you go over, pick them up, and make sure they are okay. Then we can ask questions like “what happened?” “Do you know how you crashed?” “Do you think you need to pay more attention so you stop crashing into that telephone pole?”
We can and should have compassion while still not creating wimps.
4. Tell them stories of your leadership failures
My kids often act like I am a superhero. It feels good knowing they look up to me, think I can fix anything, and believe I always know what to do. I wish their view of me was true, but it’s not. As parents we regularly make mistakes. I believe it’s good for our children to hear us say “I messed up”.
Tell your kids stories about times you didn’t act under authority as an adult and got in trouble. Use that speeding ticket, or the write up at work as an opportunity to show your humanity and exemplify what leading under authority looks like. Keep in mind they are children so only share details necessary to teach.
Above all else never be afraid to apologize to your children when you misspoke or lost your cool with them. Seeing you live as a leader under authority will help them do the same.
Let’s raise a generation of follower, who are in a position of leadership!
Be honest: when you got your last speeding ticket did you blame yourself or the police officer? Comment below.