Is being a leader or a follower an innate trait? Can you be both or do you have to be one or the other? Some people are said to be natural born leaders and some people are better as followers. However, the path you chose is not predetermined; you can be whoever you want to be your life.
“We all want our kids to be a leader not a follower but in reality a better goal would be to know when to lead and when to follow,” said Dr. Michael Popkin, spokesperson for Real Parents Real Answers youth smoking prevention program.
While parents cannot always come to the rescue, they can help by providing encouragement for their kids to think for themselves.
Popkin offers three quick tips for encouraging kids to learn to lead or follow depending on the situation.
1. Let kids arrive at their own conclusions. Encourage your kids to come to you with questions but refrain (refrain, parents, refrain!) from jumping in with a solution. Offer multiple ways of looking at a situation but let kids come to conclusions on their own—even if it’s the wrong conclusion. Just brace yourself to have a follow-up conversation about what went wrong and the reasons behind why your child’s logic didn’t pan out.
2. Examine the problem, piece by piece. In school the hardest questions to answer were word problems or a math equation. Teachers would always say, “Read the question carefully and think through it.” The same goes for any problem your child faces. Have them examine it piece by piece and the answer usually will show itself.
3. Be willing to offer advice. Allowing our kids to arrive at their own conclusions doesn’t mean we step back from our parenting duties. Sometimes our kids come to us because they’re frustrated or hurt and they need our guidance. Allow your child to work out some answers on their own but know it’s okay to ask them, “Would you like to know what I would do?” Then talk through why they think your advice does or doesn’t make sense for them.
Popkin encourages parents to visit www.RealParentsRealAnswers.com for more parenting advice on topics such as communication, building self-esteem and courage, and managing stress in children.
About Dr. Michael Popkin
The founder of Active Parenting Publishers, Dr. Michael H. Popkin is the author of many award-winning, video-based parenting education programs. An expert in the field of parenting education, Dr. Popkin earned a doctorate in Counseling Psychology from Georgia State University and has served as Director of Child and Family Services at an Atlanta hospital. He and his family currently live in Atlanta. For more information about Dr. Popkin, as well as a complete listing of his books and videos, advice from Dr. Popkin, a Parents’ Discussion Forum, and a list of parenting workshops in your area, visit www.activeparenting.com