Life teaches us that the authority to lead and the chance to lead go hand-in-hand. Your kids may feel that when they’re given the authority—as team captain or co-captain—then they can truly be a leader on the team.
But that belief about leadership is not true. Leadership expert John Maxwell explains that “Leadership is influence. Nothing more. Nothing less.”
So, what does being a leader look like for your child—with or without the title or given authority—as they play sports?
Leaders feel empathy.
Maxwell also says this: Empathy is a core trait of an effective leader. This is the ability to show awareness of and compassion for the situation or needs of another.
Teammates are often drawn to an athlete who is an effective listener and an empathic confidant. When teammates feel that your child cares about them, they are more apt to follow your child’s example or at least listen to them.
Leaders are good communicators.
If your child really wants to be a leader, encourage their communication skills. Teach and model for them how to listen, how to ask questions, and how to calmly talk with coaches and teammates when problems arise.
I’ve been around a lot of kids who have no clue how to talk to adults. We purposely exposed our kids to plenty of adults when they were younger so they would learn how to relate to them. Does your child know how to confidently approach a coach and talk about a problem or issue?
Leaders look for opportunities to solve problems.
Athletes who blame others for mistakes and problems are not going to be seen as leaders. If your child refuses to play the blame game and instead looks for resolutions to problems, they will be seen more and more as a leader.
Given authority has nothing to do with being a true leader. Our society is full of examples of people who use their position as an opportunity to exert control over others. But leaders who are truly influential have learned the power of serving others. In serving others, they earn respect.
Ultimately, your child will be a leader because they influence teammates, and that influence comes through serving, solving problems, showing empathy, and communicating well. As your child helps the team to work together towards a shared goal, they will emerge as a leader. Leadership is more about influence and relationships than it is about control and giving orders.
Janis Meredith is a family life coach who wants to help parents raise champions. You can find out more at rcfamilies.com.
For many parents, raising teens is the hardest season of parenting. It’s uncomfortable, messy, chaotic, and can make you question every parenting decision you make. Add to that the drama and trauma of youth sports and life can become very complicated. Although there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to raising teens, there are some uncomfortable truths that every parent of a teen needs to acknowledge if they want to have any hope of coming out of the teen years with a good parent/child relationship.
Truth #1: Teens Still Need to Be Hugged – A Lot.
They may roll their eyes, hug you back with the enthusiasm of a wet rag, or may not hug back at all. Don’t let that deter you. Your teens need the physical touch of your love, no matter how uncomfortable it may feel.
Truth #2: Listen to Them on Their Terms.
If there’s one thing I learned in trying to communicate with my three kids as teens, it was that they weren’t always in the mood to talk. But when they were, if it was at all possible, the best thing for me to do was drop everything and listen. Even if it was late at night, while I was working, or busy in another conversation, I would do the best that I could to take advantage of their willingness to talk and excuse myself from other things just so that my ears were available.
When you’re in the middle of something and your child interrupts because they want to talk, it’s okay to say, “Hey, my child needs me right now, can I get back to you?” Most adults will understand. Kids, not so much.
Listening to our kids is not always convenient, but it is crucial to their perception of our love for them.
Truth #3: Teens Need to Have Hard Conversations with Parents
There are many hard conversations that you must have with your teen. They need to hear the truth from their parents about sex, drugs, drinking, online safety, bullying, cheating, depression, and much more. These conversations may not be easy and will most likely be awkward. But they are part of a parent’s job. Don’t turn that job over to peers, or even expect other adults to do your work. Others can confirm it and support it but be sure they are hearing it from you too.
Truth #4 Teens Need to Hear No.
Even while it’s important to hear your teens out, to understand their perspective, and to listen to their emotions in an effort to resolve issues together, there will be times when the one word your teen needs to hear after you’ve explained your perspective is NO.
I’ve known parents that try too hard to be liked by their teens, parents who have already given up and just let their kids do whatever they want, and parents who are just trying to keep peace in the house–and NO is a word they try to avoid using for fear of their teen’s reaction.
Be choosy about your NOs, yes, but if you know in your gut that NO is exactly what your child needs to hear in a certain situation, then say it! Be sure it’s accompanied with why you’re saying no, and reassurances of your love. Sure, they may be angry and hate you in the moment, but at some point, they will know deep down that a NO was your way of saying “I love you.”
Truth #5: Teens Will Rebel or Push Back and Parents Need to Be Okay with That.
Even the best-behaved teens will have their moments of rebellion or pushing back against Mom and Dad. As much as we’d like to raise trouble-free kids, the honest truth is that this contrariness is really okay.
There’s actually a reason for all their ornery behavior. During the teenage years, the area of the brain called the prefrontal cortex is developing. This part of the brain is the thinking and judgment center. Whereas younger children may not see parental flaws, adolescents suddenly start to see the world differently.
Dr. David Elkind, a clinical psychologist and author of All Grown Up and No Place to Go, explains that all the arguing by teens is a result of the prefrontal cortex at work, and as a child becomes a teen, their brains are better able to turn information into ideas.
Teens want to exercise their new skill — and they tend to practice on their parents. It may seem that they argue for the sake of arguing. But really, they’re practicing their new abilities.
So the bottom line is this: your kids are growing into their ability to think and sometimes that results in pushing back or rebelling. Your job, then, is not to override their thinking, but to help them sort through their thinking and learn how to use that thinking in a positive and smart way.
I laugh when I read this quote: Raising teens is like nailing Jell-O to a tree.
The life of a parent raising teens is slippery, constantly changing shape, and near impossible to get a solid grasp on because as soon as you think you’ve got it figured out, some new crisis arises. Start with these 5 uncomfortable truths and you will at least have the nail and hammer in hand. Good luck with the Jell-O.