There is an increasing need and expectation of leaders and leadership skills from individuals. The lack of right leaders to follow has become the crux of the never-ending argument on politics, crisis and larger incomprehensible problems.
With the already time-constrained lifestyle of children, there is a greater urge for parents to ‘educate’ kids on leadership skills. Personality development classes for 10-year-olds and public speaking skills have become an inconvenience for introverts and independent thinkers. In the era of social media, blogs, podcasts and Youtube, oratory skills, which have deep respect in the expectation of leadership, are questioned. One of the reasons could be the abstract nature of leadership. Every abstract has a fundamental core or seed which needs to be explored, discovered and understood.
What is leadership? Who is a leader? Do we really need a leader? Is leadership even a skill?
Through history till the present day, leadership has been associated with a few distinguished individuals. People have different perceptions about them which are usually stereotyped. Some believe “leaders are born”, a phrase that is an outcome of the assumed needlessness to learn more about the individual’s history. On the other hand, ‘leaders are meant to be followed’ is questioned when you find certain qualities in the individual that you may or may not want to adopt.
Overall, leadership has come down to a bunch of quotes, best practices, values, and habits that create the image of a superhuman persona. This has built a society that either chases these idealized abilities or waits for someone with such an ability to come and be the saviour. Mythological stories and ‘success’ stories reiterate this and have made it a norm, a belief that people are conditioned to.
A guy suddenly jumping off his bike to fix the nuisance caused by traffic.
When we place these worshipped individuals at ground level and see them as humans like ourselves we realize that there is some specific skill that sets them apart. This realization gets stronger when you look around and see individuals in your day to day life. A guy suddenly jumping off his bike to fix the nuisance caused by traffic, a mother leaving her job to spend time with her kids, a 65-year-old starting a new enterprise, an 8-year-old giving his/her favourite toy to a 5-year-old.
No, it is not about sacrifices or risk-taking. This again leads to the danger of stereotypes being spun around martyrs and rebels. Sacrifice is rather an outcome of skill-set and risk along with the ability to understand a situation. It is about decision making.
Decision making is a fundamental skill and the one thing that’s common among the individuals we admire – the ability to identify choices, analyse them and make a decision. Decision leads to action which results in a definite outcome. What differentiates these decision makers from the rest is their ability to be realistic and live up to the outcome.
Most of us tend to get clouded by indefinite choices or outcomes and get comfortable with the forever loop of thoughts. If we learn more about decision makers, we will know that they all had to face choices, some hard, some necessary, and some on what decisions they made for these choices. For some, it starts young, as early as 5 yrs of age and for some even in their second childhood of 60 yrs.
What can parents do to inculcate decision-making skills in kids?
In some cases, it is by accident and in others, it is a consequence of their environment. It is important to understand that this skill is not specific to a case such as in swimming or cycling, which you do only when the situation demands it or because it is a hobby. Decision making is strengthened on a day to day basis and needs practice. The more decisions one makes, the better is the decision making capability. The majority of learning is experience based but, of course, the learning that takes place through observation, research and interaction with fellow decision makers is equally valuable.
What can parents do to inculcate decision-making skills in kids? What are the practices that parents can follow? As a parent, it is natural to think of creating an environment rather than leaving it up to circumstances. But it is important to understand and be aware that this is not a package that can be spoon-fed; it needs to be experienced individually by each child if self-discovery and growth are to happen.
The first thing to do is to accept that not everything is under control. There are situations and challenges that every individual goes through and a child, as an individual, is bound to undergo the same.
The outcome of keeping things under control is decision fatigue and anxiety. The way out is delegating the day to day decisions to kids i.e. a role shift from guardian to a facilitator. This enables kids to face choices and take necessary action themselves. It could be as simple as letting the kid decide their day, the friends they wish to hang out with or even letting kids go to school themselves using public transport.
We have been fortunate to interact with homeschoolers in Coimbatore and other cities and spend significant time with their parents. Their day to day principles revolve around letting kids make their own decision. From the choice of food, to dress, to subjects they wish to learn. More importantly, educating them that every decision has an outcome and they have to face it rather than blame others.
How to take a decision needs a whole new blog post, but what is important is to acknowledge that decision making is essential for every individual. Rather than expecting a leader, it is important for parents and society to design an environment for decision makers. The earlier decision making experiences may encourage kids to make it a habit and help them discover the ability to make a quality decision for themselves and the people around them.
As Dumbledore says, it is our choices that show who we truly are, far more than our abilities.