Dr. Rich Patterson

Part Two. Parenting on Purpose: Personal Leadership

Teaching our kids personal leadership may be one of the essential skills that they can learn.  More than ever, kids are bombarded by the negative side of life.  Try this, come with me here, let’s do that, don’t take that from him, and so on.  Personal leadership says establish your character limits in advance.  Know what your non-negotiables are and apply them during those weaker moments of choice.

Teaching character takes time, and there are no shortcuts.  Here are a few tips that will help you work on personal leadership with your kids.

  1.  Help them establish their character frame by discussing as many social situations as you can think of in advance—for example, a case where a friend wants them to skip school.  Take the situation a part with them and encourage them to think long-term of the consequences regarding those spur-of-the-moment distractions.
  2. Those moments of choice only last for a short while.  If you help your child establish behavior norms from which they will not veer in advance, they have a much better chance of being successful when faced with those moments of choice.  I like to remind kids that those moments only last for a short while.  If we can be vital during that short time and hold fast to our beliefs and our behavior standards, we will be so glad that we did when that choice passes.
  3. Teach kids to re-direct negative behavior with statements learned and practiced in advance. Comments like, “I don’t participate in things like that.”  or “That isn’t what I’m about, let’s do this instead (suggesting something more positive), or “You know I enjoy being around you, but when you act like this, I feel like you’re dragging me down.”
  4. Don’t forget you can vote with your feet and walk away.  That is always an option.  Teach kids not to look back or listen to what is said.  They will likely be called names, labeled as this or that.  Tell them to walk away and pay no attention to them.  I like to remind kids that they always have a choice, so if their friends don’t recover from an exchange, such as number three above, then gradually drop them as a friend.

These four areas of character development will serve as some great discussion points with your kids.  I believe that as parents, when we can talk with them in advance of situations, they will likely face, helping them to know what to say, what to do, and that they can call them as parents anytime, we give them skills that they can use for a lifetime.

Click here to read another post in this series, Parenting on Purpose, Parenting on Purpose: Focus on Energy – Dr. Rich Patterson (

Penn State has a great site that speaks about Leadership and children, a critical topic to address with your kids, Leadership and children — Better Kid Care — Penn State Extension (

Look for the series ‘Parenting on Purpose’ for more critical topics to help your kids.