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Four ways to lead children through good examples

By James Druman May 30, 2012

Parenting is the most important leadership role the average person will take in their lifetime, but how many parents take it seriously? Many parents in modern-day America see themselves as playing more of a caretaker role than a leadership role, but being a great mother or father is much more than putting the food on the table and paying the rent. If you are considering the influence you have on your child's life, it is a good idea to cultivate good habits for example, as leading by example is one of the most effective approaches a parent can take.

Here are four simple ways to use this subtle leadership style with your children.

1. Not Interrupting

This one seems very minor, but it is a crucial step in learning to communicate properly. Unfortunately, many parents expect their children not to interrupt but they do it themselves all the time, especially when they are interrupting their own children. This comes from a subconscious idea we have that what we say has more importance than whatever our child has to say—because we are adults, and we don't really find interest or magnitude in the thoughts and feelings children have.

This is very damaging not only because it minimizes what your child thinks and feels but also because it teaches an unhealthy way of talking with other people. They may keep their mouth shut when you are talking, but in other situations, when they feel they are in charge, they will follow your lead.

2. Control Your Emotions

Perhaps the most important lesson by example is learning to control your emotions. Many parents have trouble with this simply because they never learned healthy ways of dealing with emotions, and if they get angry at their child they may yell or say hurtful things. Similarly, parents often lose their emotions when arguing with each other in front of the kids. While kids usually forgive these behaviors, they also learn from them. If you have problems dealing with anger and other emotions, it never hurts to speak with a therapist and discuss more positive means of emotional expression.

3. Stay Active

These days, it is more important than ever to teach your kids to be active so they can avoid the pitfalls of modern sedentary lifestyles. The best way to do this is be active yourself. Don't sit around the house, gorging yourself on television every time you get a chance. Instead, keep busy by tending to things that need to be done in the yard or busying yourself with meaningful, productive hobbies. Go to a gym to actively care for your body, and regularly engage in recreational sports.

4. Play Fair

Finally, if you want your child to become a person with a sense of justice, you need to teach them to be fair to others. Similar to interrupting them, always using the "whatever I say goes" approach to parenting or calling authority on them is a bad example to set. You are, of course, an authority and should certainly use that for your child's best interest—to teach them and keep them safe—but you should never wield that power just because you can.

Leading by example is effective because much of what a child learns from a parent is subconscious, and in the end, they will often follow your behaviors no matter what you say. Not to mention that by being a stable mentor and practicing what you preach, you earn their respect rather than demand it. And that is priceless.