School’s out, and the opportunity for kids to do group projects, give class presentations, or to play sports might be on pause for a while. But if your goal is to raise up your kids to be the next generation of leaders, here’s your opportunity as a parent, grandparent, or loved one to step in and make learning to lead fun! If you have summer vacation plans or just intend to stay home and hang out, here are easy ways to incorporate leadership training strategies for your family that will build confidence and create great memories.
Allow kids to choose a destination
One of my best vacations was when I was a freshman in college, and my mom let my younger high-school age brother and I go into AAA and create a TripTik map set for our vacation from Southern California to Colorado. One of us planned the route there, and the other planned the route back. We spent time looking up best sites along the way and talked with the travel team at AAA about how to best incorporate all of our ideas. We included givens like the Grand Canyon and Hoover Dam, but in our research, we also found some sites that were lesser-known to us and a great surprise to the family, such as the Native American reservation in Taos, New Mexico.
Maybe you’ve got your whole vacation already planned out, but do you have room for your kids to research and choose one hike, tourist site, or restaurant that they’d like to visit? When they do the research on their own and make an important decision for the family, they’re growing in confidence and practicing leadership. When you get to your destination, let them lead the tour or share with everyone why they chose that place!
Whether it’s a four-week road trip in a camper van or a six hour flight to the other side of the country, vacations often give us more time side-by-side than we are used to. This can be an opportunity to practice good listening skills and clear communication.
Give kids a heads-up about expectations before the trip begins. With very little ones, this might even be best accomplished by drawing pictures. When we traveled a few years ago with my kids who were four and two at the time, I drew pictures to represent how we would behave and communicate (i.e., not yelling) on an airplane, and we went over it before and during the trip. They’ve asked for me to do this for them on other occasions because they’ve learned to appreciate clear communication!
I now ask my two older kids to help me set and communicate expectations to the younger kids and remind them of the example they set. For example, when we get in the car, I’ll say, “Big kids, do you have any thoughts on what rules and guidelines our family should have for the drive?” Everyone is eager to give an opinion when asked, and the buy-in is stronger when they’ve helped create the rules. Setting clear expectations and reviewing them often is skill that will transfer with them as they learn to lead.
Work Toward Goals
2 Chronicles 15:7 says, ““But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded.” We want our kids to learn about hard work and perseverance. Are you visiting a state or national park that rewards kids with ranger badges for participating in certain activities? Can you bring along your library’s summer reading program chart for the car ride? I have four kids at home that are working toward library prizes as they read throughout the summer. The prizes our library gives out are small (bubbles, tote bags, etc.), and yet the kids can’t wait for me to scan or mark off books each day as they read. Kids naturally rise to the occasion to meet a goal, so don’t worry about the rewards or incentives not being big enough! Good leaders learn to set goals and self-motivate, and those skills start at a very young age.
Give a Recap Presentation
Last summer after a hike, my son asked if he could come home and give us a presentation on the wildlife we’d seen. He looked up pictures of the area, used pictures we’d taken, and used research on the animals to give us an impressive keynote speech. The rest of the family sat on the couch while he went through his presentation for us on the big screen, and we asked questions and applauded in the end. Good leaders know how to summarize information and regurgitate it for others in order to inspire, and they often need good public speaking skills. Of course, my daughter wanted to create a presentation, too, after she saw my son give his. Could your kids give a recap of the trip with pictures to grandparents or friends?
Let Your Kids Start Something
A friend’s 7-year-old son told me a couple of weeks ago about his big plans to start a summer camp at his house. He’s planning on charging $1 per day for younger kids to come over to play, and he’s going to lead activities. He even considered having friends help! I was so impressed with his leadership ideas and his entrepreneurial spirit! We talked through his business plan, and I suggested he raise his prices a bit so he could compensate his friends. He was so excited that he went on about it for nearly an hour.
My friend’s son actually reminded me of a younger version of myself. When I was a kid, I invited younger neighborhood children to come over for a “camp” in my backyard that I led myself with the help of a friend, and $2 covered craft supplies and snacks while giving me a little extra to pocket.
While my friend was less than enthusiastic about her son inviting more kids over to the house while she already had her hands full, I encourage parents to think about small ways they can support big ideas so that kids have a taste of leadership that inspires them to grow year over year. Could he invite younger kids over for one hour of planned activities rather than a week if mom was willing to supervise for a short time?
Let your kids start a pet-sitting business or pick up mail for neighbors on vacation. You’ll be amazed at how they learn reliability and responsibility! While it takes patience, time, and effort to help them get going in the beginning, the dividends of lessons learned are priceless.
Volunteering is a great way for kids to grow in confidence and see the value that they bring to someone else. When kids feel needed, they’re inspired to problem-solve, lead change, and contribute. Philippians 2:3-4 says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” Christ gave His life for us as a sacrifice on the cross, and our servant-leadership comes from a deep place of appreciation for that gift of salvation and desire to share with others. Does your church have a Vacation Bible School or camp that your teens can help with? Perhaps they’re too young to serve as a counselor, but even kids can help by creating decorations or inviting friends.
When I was eleven, I spent a week volunteering as a junior counselor at a sleep-away camp for children who were blind. I was nervous to be away from home without my parents and almost quit early when I was homesick, but a counselor encouraged me to stay by partnering me one-on-one with a younger girl who was blind and had taken a liking to me. She needed my physical leadership as I invited her to grasp my elbow and guided her around the camp and activities for the week. Despite my fears and my own insecurities, my leadership skills were able to grow, and I was still able to use them to serve someone else. I learned that God can use anyone to lead if He calls them to a role, and He will equip us with what is needed to serve. The blank slate and empty schedule of summer gave me this special opportunity for my leadership to be challenged in a new way.
The church will need a fresh generation of leaders in the future who are confident, creative, Christ-centered, and servant-hearted, and those leaders are the children of today. The Bible says in Ephesians 2:10, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them,” meaning that God already is working out the areas of leadership where your children will one day serve and the opportunities that will come their way. Ask God for a vision of who your children will become and work backwards to prepare them for that future. Parents typically have only 18 summers with their children, so the extra time spent together over the summer season should be both fun and intentional!