Parenting for Leadership

In the article “Why Youth Groups” I illustrate leadership training with a scenario between a mother and daughter. You see, as a parent of a teen, you are never just dealing with your teen – their friends are always a part of the picture. And if you are going to help your teen gain leadership skills, it has to be in the context of their relations with friends, fellow students and (for older teens) coworkers. You may not have the title of youth group advisor, but it’s a rare parent who doesn’t play that role at times.
In “Developing Teen Leadership”, you’ll discover that not only are the techniques used by youth group advisors useful, they are often far more effective for parents – after all, nobody has a greater impact on your kids than you do (even when they are teenagers).
As you read the book, don’t be surprised if much of the advice is the opposite of what you expect. Teaching leadership is often not about the things you do, but the things you don’t do.
For example: when you give advice to your teens, do you offer your opinion of what they should do based on what you believe is best for them? Chance are that you do – it’s not uncommon.
But what if, instead of offering one suggestion, you offer two? Instead of your best recommendation, try offering two different approaches that you believe are reasonable, and don’t state a preference between them.
This may seem like a minor change, but it makes a world of difference. If you offer one suggestion, your teen has a choice: accept your advice or don’t. The decision is no longer just about the issue at hand – you have all of the complexity of your relationship, establishing independence, potential conflict and so on. In fact, framed this way – your teen’s decision will often be more about your relationship than the actual problem on which you are offering advice, and discussion can quickly turn into an argument.
But if you offer two options, everything changes. The decision is no longer whether or not to accept your advice – you’ve set things up so that at least one of your suggestions has to be rejected. This defuses and often eliminates the potential for conflict – as permission to reject one suggestion at least implies that you’ll be ok with them rejecting both. This means the decision is much more likely to be driven by the issue at hand rather than your relationship, and less likely to become an argument.
The key word here is decision. Offering two or more suggestions not only demands a decision, it makes it clear that you expect your teen to make a decision and that you will respect their choice. And given that evaluating and making decisions is a key leadership skill, you can see that a very small change in approach can have a huge impact.
Who would have thought that offering more advice can be a tool for teaching leadership skills? It’s all in the approach.
And that’s what the book “Developing Teen Leadership” is about. How simple and often small changes in approach can work wonders – even for parents.