There is no such thing as a parenting expert because no two kids are the same, and not one of us truly knows what we are doing. If I have learned one thing as a parent, it’s that most of what my parents did when I was growing up was foreign to them. They didn’t know.
But they did a good job of hiding it – and that’s leadership. Now that my husband and I are raising four kids of our own, we find ourselves exchanging The Look on a regular basis.
You know The Look. It’s the one your face makes when your kids need advice or ask you a question or want something and you’re not sure how to go from there. What’s the process? Is there a right answer? How do we do this? It’s The Look. The Look means ‘who the hell thought we were qualified to raise kids and do this because we don’t know what we are doing,’ and it happens a lot.
Sure, you learn as you go. The subsequent kids are easier – except they’re not because I’m convinced all second children are sent to destroy all thoughts of ‘maybe we kind of rock at parenting’ any parent has. Second kids are essentially a form of karma.
Don’t get me wrong though. Second kids are the best ones. They’re nowhere near as angelic and sweet, as kind and well-behaved, as thoughtful and generous as those darling firstborns. But they’re fun. And this is the kid you’re going to be best friends with when they’re adults.
What’s my point, you ask? My point is that no one is an expert when it comes to kids, but go ahead and tell yourself that if it helps you sleep at night. Kids are kids, and we are just rolling with it on a daily basis hoping we don’t royally screw them up and hoping we teach them to be good people. Part of that is teaching our kids to lead.
Leadership and Kids
Instilling the art of leadership in our kids is a precious thing for many reasons. We aren’t saying you’re going to raise the next CEO of a Fortune 500 Company, but teaching leadership skills is important regardless of the child or their future plans.
Not every leader runs a major corporation or a nation, but they run families, classrooms, offices, and so much more. Leaders are born and raised, and they’re present in every facet of life. We must teach our kids leadership skills so they’re better equipped to get through life no matter what they choose to do with theirs.
The Benefits of Teaching Our Kids Leadership Skills
The problem with people is many feel that there are natural born leaders and followers when the truth is that there is not. Yes, some of us are more outgoing, louder, more outspoken, and more ambitious than others. But no one is born a leader or a follower. Everyone is born on even ground and we are taught to lead or follow.
The key is to teach our kids to lead so that 1 – they don’t follow and 2 – they pass on that ‘natural’ leadership ability to their own future generations. What I’m saying is that teaching kids to lead is the gift that keeps on giving.
- Leaders tend to make better choices
- Leaders manage their time more efficiently
- Leaders are team players
- Leaders are valuable
- Leaders are role models
- Leaders are more confident
Now ask yourself this: Is there a reason you wouldn’t want to raise kids who are leaders? It’s best to teach your kids the qualities and traits of a leader from a young age, but it’s not too late to help your teens learn leadership skills. I mean, I don’t think. As the mother of a high school freshman who is actively involved in varsity sports, I’ve seen some things. And I’m not sure I can unsee them. But why not try? Here are 20 effective leadership activities your teens can try.
What is a Leadership Activity?
Leadership activities are teaching tools, and you might be surprised how often they are present in your own life. Essentially, a leadership activity helps your teen learn to effectively lead, and these activities are usually fun. In fact, kids may have so much fun they don’t realize they are learning. And let’s be honest, telling your kids you’re teaching them to become leaders is not going to go over as well as telling them you have a fun activity planned.
Oh, who are we kidding? Telling your teen anything is going to elicit a raised brow – or rolled eyes if you allow that – and a heavy sigh, but most kids will participate. Just don’t be surprised if they deny any and all enjoyment and pleasure at the end of said activities. They liked it. They just don’t want you to know. Teens are such a joy sometimes.
The Best Leadership Activities For Teens
You might be pleasantly surprised to realize these activities are not all your doing, and many of them require very little effort on your behalf. They’re everyday things your kids can do that provide great leadership experience, and they won’t even realize it.
1. Write in a Gratitude Journal
It might sound odd to consider this a leadership skill, but it’s not. There are about a million good reasons to practice gratitude, but most of all because a good leader is one who practices gratitude. Spending a few moments each day being grateful is a good way to become a more well-rounded person who is a capable leader.
2. Practice Listening
No one is effective as a leader if they don’t know how to listen. Have your kids practice listening to motivational podcasts, and then ask them questions about each one. The bonus here is you get to listen to motivational podcasts, too, and now there is an open dialogue with your teen.
3. Play Sports
Sports are one of the most effective ways for kids to learn leadership. How? Because sports teach kids to work as a team. Every good leader knows how to effectively work together as a team.
4. Joining Student Government
What better way to learn leadership skills than to campaign for a political office in school? Kids learn to listen to their constituents. They learn to lead by example, and they learn how to be accountable for their own actions.
5. Join NHS or NJHS
What is this, you ask? National Honor Society for high schoolers and National Junior Honor Society for younger teens still in middle school. This is an organization that recognizes that hard work and dedication of students who maintain all A’s or all A’s and B’s in school. Members are required to participate in volunteer work, in school activities, and they learn valuable skills.
6. Volunteer Work
Being an effective leader requires giving back. No great leader ever made it the top by focusing only on what they can do for themselves. They focus on what they can do for others. How can they use their own resources to help others?
7. Join a STEM Club
STEM is an acronym (and we are poets) that stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. These clubs are in most schools, and they are outstanding. Kids in a STEM club use real world problems. They learn to do things using these applications, and it’s truly a one of a kind activity for kids who will learn to lead.
8. Join the School Paper
Paper might be an antiquated term for teens. Actually, I’m currently sitting here wondering if my own teen even knows what a paper is? I’m asking when I pick her up today. Back to the point, though. Maybe it’s not a school newspaper any longer, but your kids can become involved in the updating and maintenance of the school social media pages, etc. Things like this help kids learn to lead through communication.
9. Join the Yearbook Committee
This one I know still exists because my daughter participated in yearbook when she was in seventh grade. It turned out that being part of yearbook was not for her (she didn’t have the time to commit to being part of it with her NJHS duties and her sports) but she did learn so much about the importance of leading and being aware of what’s going on in every aspect of her school.
10. Manage A Sports Team
This might be a situational activity. Where my own kids go to middle school, kids in sixth grade are not allowed to play contact sports. Those are reserved for kids in seventh and eighth grades. However, sixth grade kids are permitted to join the contact sports teams as managers. They help the players, they work on schedules, travel with the team, and they help with practices. It’s a great way for kids to learn more than just the art of playing the sport.
11. Join A Club
A reading club, a debate team, whatever. Clubs are a great way for teens to learn things such as time management, organization, and so much more. Where we live, there are clubs that are dedicated to giving back to the community, to doing good deeds, to performing plays and music, and so much more. There are so many options your kids can choose from.
12. Get Involved in Community Projects
Your community has one or two, I promise. Something we love our kids to do – and this is kind of a me thing – is work within the community to do things for others. I serve as the PTO president at our twins’ elementary school, and our middle and high schoolers help the community through that. They help out at school events, they help organize fundraisers and fun community activities, and so much more. They’re learning a lot about not only giving back but organizing and being responsible for large scale events this way (and they’re earning their volunteer hours).
13. Apply for an internship
This applies for older teens, but it’s effective. Being an intern at a company helps teens learn how the workforce, well, works. They learn how to work together, how to handle conflicts, how to be part of a team of people working for the same goal, and so much more. This might be more of a summer activity, but it’s a good one.
Not only can your teens earn cash they can spend on things like their favorite Starbucks beverages and their Lululemon legging obsession, but they learn to lead. Helping care for someone’s children is a huge responsibility, and it’s one kids should spend time learning. Additionally, little kids can teach older kids a thing or two about patience, creativity, and fun. I mean, I’ve been parenting foe 14 years and I still have not learn the art of patience, but I’m sure it’ll work for your teens.
Most teens can’t coach a team fully and completely, but they can absolutely assist. Here’s a tip – call a local middle school or community sports organization and ask if any teams have any desire to let a teen help the coaches. Volunteers are a rarity these days, so I’m willing to be you’ll get a lot of yeses with this question.
16. Become a Camp Counselor
I always wanted to be camp counselor growing up, but I was too busy with things like competitive cheer practices and all-star softball practices and games all summer. And, if we are really being honest, it wasn’t a camp counselor I wanted to be.
I wanted to be a camper who accidentally stumbled upon my long-lost twin that my parents didn’t tell me about when they divorced when I was born and split me and my super amazing twin sister up and we’d trade places so I could meet my other parent and then they’d get back together and me and my sister would be happily ever after (it never occurred to me that my parents were married before they have me and are still married to this day and this situation literally would not work out for me….stupid details).
Camp counselors are the coolest, or so they say. It’s a fun job that teaches a lot, and your teen may love the idea of doing something productive like this over the summer.
17. Organize a Drive
There are so many things a teen can organize. From a toy drive at Christmas to a food drive at Thanksgiving to a donation drive for someone whose home was destroyed or who is ill and no longer able to care for their family. The point is that if your teen has a passion for helping others, this is a wonderful way to teach them to lead by example and by grace.
18. Let Your Teen Run the Household for a Day
This could be a lot of fun or a trainwreck. I often tell my kids that if it weren’t for my husband and I, they might struggle to survive a day without us. From driving them around to keeping their schedules at the forefront of our minds to knowing what laundry they need for what practice day to knowing their science fair hypothesis is due at this time on this date to knowing their social calendars, their favorite lunch box items, and feeding them, cleaning up after them, and so much more…they would be lost.
Why not let the kids lead the house for a day? Let your teen cook. Let them make the beds and clean up after everyone and keep everyone’s schedules and make the decisions for a day. It really is all fun and games, but perhaps they’ll gain a little insight into the inner workings of a successful home on a daily basis and learn to appreciate you and your spouse a little more – as well as learn leadership skills.
19. Start a Book Club
Growing up – and still to this day – there was nothing I loved more than reading. Some of my kids are following in my footsteps, and they love to read. My teenage daughter loves to go with me and her friends to the book store to pick out new books, grab a coffee, and peruse the shelves for far too long. Starting a book club is a great way to teach kids to lead. They’re responsible for assigning books, for discussions, and for organizing thought-provoking conversations. It’s also just good for them to read and discuss, so this one is a huge win.
20. Lead By Example
This is less an activity for the kids and more a reminder to parents. It’s easy to forget that these kids are watching every single move we make, but they are. Remember that their future is often modeled by your own present. Teach your kids how to react to various situations, that they’ll have conflict in their lives whether it’s with friends, their spouse, someone they know elsewhere, and model effective communication and compromise skills. It’s important to teach them affection and love (and for the love of everything, please teach them to be at least a little sarcastic so they’re not boring).
Teach them the life skills that will take them far, like having a positive outlook or how to handle stress and anxiety. Talk to them. Ask for input. Teach them that no is a complete sentence and that the behavior of others toward them is a reflection of how other people feel inside and not about anyone else. Be a good example. The world doesn’t have enough of those.
Other Great Parenting Resources for Teens