10 Tips for Developing Leadership Skills in Your Children: The Skate Kid Kaitlyn Saunders Leads the Way

Most parents want to raise their children to be future leaders who impact their community, nation and world. Now, more than ever, there are opportunities to help cultivate leadership skills in your children. Here are 10 tips to help:

1. Voice your values. Establish a value system in your home and instill virtues such as honesty and integrity early on, as this is the backbone of quality leaders.

2. Ready with responsibilities. Teach your child to be responsible by delegating age-appropriate chores and increase expectations as they grow. This builds competence, confidence and independence, which are all essential leadership traits.

3. Aim for activities. Academic and extracurricular activities build discipline and teach teamwork, interpersonal skills and accountability to others. They also provide an outlet for setting and achieving goals and stepping out in leadership positions.

4. Provide a platform. Give your child a platform to voice her views so she knows her opinions count. If she is younger, allow her to have some input in family decision-making, such as what to have for dinner or where to go on vacation. If she is older, exchange thoughts on what is happening in the news and ask open-ended questions: “How do you think COVID-19 has impacted your friends and their families?” “Where have you seen racial tension among your peers?” “What would you do to change our nation’s current circumstances and how would you do it?”

5. Go for the goal. Goal-setting encourages children to take on challenges, teaches long-range planning and promotes self-confidence when goals are attained. Show your child how to set and achieve goals by breaking down larger tasks into smaller ones, then celebrate successes along the way. If failure does occur, have your child look at the experience in light of the wisdom it produced: “What lesson can we take away from this so you can succeed next time?”

6. Build in bravery. Encourage your child to take a stand on issues he feels strongly about (e.g., peer pressure, racial injustice or bullying). Role play different situations and encourage your children to venture out with challenges that move them beyond their comfort zone. Kids evolve in the process and emerge stronger when they face difficult situations head on. Stand on the sidelines and offer support and encouragement.

7. Encourage agent of change. Teach your child he doesn’t have to sit idly by when faced with situations he has the power to change. This could be as simple as writing a letter to a legislative official, expressing his views on a current event, picking up groceries for someone who is immune-compromised or helping an elderly person with lawn care. Remind him that optimistic attitudes are often an inspiration and may prompt others to follow his lead.

8. Venture out with volunteering. Volunteering teaches servant leadership and civic responsibility. Once your child gets into the volunteer mindset, it will become a natural part of her life. Take part in church or community volunteer work and bring her along. Encourage giving not only of her time, but also a portion of her money.

9. Lead by example. Parents are powerful role models and teach by example how to lead. Share your goals, growth opportunities and the sacrifices and rewards you’ve experienced in becoming a leader.

10. Be consistent. Raising children to be quality leaders takes time and consistent effort. Continue to instill moral intelligence, encourage responsible behavior and provide opportunities for growth. In time, they will naturally step up and step out to lead others.

Denise Yearian is the former editor of two parenting magazines and the mother of three children. She has six grandchildren.

Photo by Dorie Howell Photography

The Skate Kid Kaitlyn Saunders Birthdate: November 27 Grade: 4th Started roller skating/ice skating: Fall of 2017

How has your life changed since your skating video at Black Lives Matter Plaza in Washington, D.C. went viral? After my skate … I did a lot of interviews (including CNN, BBC, NBC Nightly News, The Kelly Clarkson Show, National Children’s Museum and even The Netherlands Children’s Network). Those experiences taught me new ways to use my voice for change. After that, I started my own video series on Instagram where I interview people who inspire me. I also received a skating scholarship from the Diversify Ice Foundation that will help me get more practice ice time, new figure skates, a skating dress and more. My Instagram channel, @the.skate.kid, grew to over 36,000 followers. So, I’m excited to use these opportunities to continue to inspire people and call for positive change.

What prompted you to try and make a difference? I was watching TV with my parents. We saw protestors holding signs and marching in front of the White House and over the Black Lives Matter street painting. I asked my parents questions about the march. They told me about what happened to George Floyd and why many people were hurting about the racial injustices that keep happening. They said that people all around the United States and the world were coming together to try to make a change. We talked about marching, but they had concerns about the coronavirus and large crowds. So, we came up with the idea of going downtown really early in the morning to do a skating tribute video.

Is there anything you would like to tell our readers? If you see people who are hurting, you can do something to help. Even if it’s small, like a poem, a drawing or a skating routine, you can use your voice or talents to help make a change. We are all part of one big community. If anyone in the community needs help, we all must step up and do something. You never know if one day you’ll need the community to help you.

Meet The Skate Kid’s Mom – Katrice

How have you been able to build competence, confidence and independence (leadership traits) in Kaitlyn? We don’t just tell Kaitlyn that her voice matters, we try to show her in our daily family interactions. She gets a seat at the table to discuss her ideas, frustrations and hopes (even if it’s about something we may see as negligible). It’s important that she sees that her opinions matter and that she has a stake in our family’s decisions.

How have you encouraged Kaitlyn to be an agent of change? We emphasize awareness, education and compassion. Throughout her life, we’ve tried to give Kaitlyn a wide variety of opportunities to meet new people, learn new things and have experiences outside of her daily routine. Prior to the pandemic, we attended a wide variety of Washington, D.C.-area cultural events and activities. Through these experiences, she was encouraged to discover similarities and appreciate differences while paying attention to how other people view the world and are viewed by the world. We would ask her questions to see how she was processing these experiences, and she asked us a lot of questions. Most importantly, we strive to teach and demonstrate how to view these experiences through compassion.

What recommendations do you have for other parents who want to build leadership skills in their children? Every child has unique characteristics and abilities. It’s a parent’s challenge to identify, appreciate and hone their child’s strengths. These strengths, along with learned determination, purpose and compassion, can help build a foundation for leadership. The world will not always look at your children and see their talents, intelligence or abilities. Despite that, you must make sure they know their immense value to your family and to the world.