Skip to main content

Style Magazine

5 Wrong Ways to Raise a Leader

Jun 01, 2015 12:32PM ● By Style

Photo © lev dolgachov/

Wise words like “Follow the Golden Rule” or “Practice what you preach” have been passed down from generation to generation. We heard these sayings from our parents, who heard them from their parents, who heard them…well you know how it goes. Ancient wisdom aside, parenting is more stressful today than ever. We asked two local professionals to weigh in on the mistakes parents sometimes make that could keep children from becoming leaders when they grow up.

1 / Allowing technology to interfere with healthy social interactions. 

“Oftentimes the whole family spends nights with their eyes glued to their devices, so parents are modeling a social disconnectedness to their children,” says Christopher Taylor, a licensed marriage and family therapist (MFT) in Folsom who counsels clients with parenting challenges. “Parents should be encouraged to set ‘no technology’ zones and times, because it’s important for children to develop strong interpersonal skills. Leadership involves having a high level of aptitude in relationship-building and communicating with others.”     

2 / Defining a child’s interest without first exploring what the child identifies as their interest. 

It’s common to see parents push an activity that is not the child’s choice, such as when a father insists his son be a football player, yet the boy is interested in art. Taylor urges parents to patiently explore their children’s ideas and strengths. “The better approach for parents is to walk their kids through the steps necessary to reach success in their own area of interest,” he advises. “This can help children develop strategic planning skills at a young age and learn to take responsibility for their choices.”

3 / Failing to teach kids how to handle their feelings. 

Children should develop the ability to deal with feelings that may be uncomfortable or unpleasant, says Patricia Brunner, Ph.D., a psychologist in Roseville who specializes in child therapy (she also works with teens and adults). “While we are striving to raise kids’ self-esteem, there are missed opportunities to help them learn to cope with the bad stuff—stress, disappointment, sadness, worry and just plain old bad things that happen,” cautions Dr. Brunner. She suggests two approaches. “First, parents should model a healthy way to handle the negative events that happen in our own lives. Secondly, don’t rescue kids too quickly—being cut from a team, getting a bad grade, etc.—instead, help them identify their feelings and move through them with actions toward better coping next time.”  

4 / Empathy vs. entitlement. 

Another challenge that today’s parents face, according to Dr. Brunner, is developing a child’s sense of compassion while avoiding an attitude of expecting special treatment or status without earning it. Effective parenting practices such as listening, nurturing and noticing good behavior can prime the child’s developing personality to feel empathy over entitlement. 

5 / Do as I say, not as I do. 

Case in point: Parents who text while driving with kids in the car. Remember, the kids are watching you and will ultimately copy your behavior.  Teach your children by word and example that when you drive, you drive—no talking on the phone, no texting, and no checking email or social media statuses. This is a parenting rule that will help them grow into leaders by saving their lives, as well as help them to garner respect from their peers when they do what they say.

-by Janet Scherr