Be the Leader your Child Needs

Be a Leader for your ChildBy Abby Bordner

Leadership is one aspect of parenting that contributes to our children’s sense of security and respect. I believe a balance of connection, love and leadership helps children have the well rounded qualities of compassion, motivation and discipline.

In my work to develop Relationship Based Parenting, I see leadership as a key pillar of healthy parenting. Other parenting styles don’t support kids to create internal discipline that will drive their focus, goals and decision making. For example, authoritarian parenting uses fear, punishment, intimidation and threats to motivate kids to behave. Unfortunately, the thing kids learn most is how to avoid getting caught. And, with permissive parenting, the complete lack of structure, direction and boundaries contributes to children who don’t feel safe or protected. With Relationship Based Parenting the focus is on parenting kids with leadership and connection.

What is healthy leadership? Well, think of it this way. A successful leader of a group, a company or even a country, has these qualities:

  • Calm and focused
  • Comfortable in their authority
  • Decisive, self-assured
  • Considers the best interests of all
  • Positive and inspiring

Hmm… that sounds like a good way to be a leader in your family, right? Don’t get me wrong. Your “followers” won’t always like what you have to say. But they respect you. And a successful leader is compassionate, consistent and assertive.

So, why is this good for children? A child’s behavior is a reflection of his/her internal world. A child who consistently behaves badly could be lacking some stability and trust in his emotional life. Some of this is related to developmental changes, feeling anxious or confused or a need for stronger connection and leadership. Children who grow up with positive leadership in the family are trusting, respectful, cooperative and see their parents as an ally in managing their emotions.

So, what exactly does day to day life look like with a positive leader? A leader acts this way:

  • I’m confident in my ability to care for you
  • I have a vision of what I want for our family
  • I will help you understand
  • I expect to achieve my vision for us

Here are some tips for positive leadership:

  1. Keep your instructions specific, clear and short. Convey your instructions with confidence that your child knows what to do and will be doing it. If there’s a need for a second reminder, get involved! Stay with your child as they engage in doing as you’ve requested. Give support so they can complete the task and know there won’t be third, fourth or fifth requests. You expect it to be done when you ask the first time.
  2. Don’t end your instructions with the habitual “ok?” that some parents fall into. “Time for bed. Ok?” “Get your shoes on. Ok?” It’s confusing and gives your children a false sense of choice in the matter. Pay attention. You may be doing it more than you think!
  3. Sometimes “Because I said so” is an acceptable reason for your child to comply. Children can get in the habit of whining and questioning in order to avoid following your instructions. Usually this questioning leads to parents justifying themselves (and getting angry) and kids complaining anyway. Rarely is it a heart-felt desire to better understand the instructions. Notice when these questions start and don’t engage in justifying yourself.
  4. Anticipate and prevent misbehavior. State your expectation to your children. Clearly describe the good behavior you expect, especially in new situations. Watch over your children with pride; make eye contact, give a smile, check in to see how they’re doing. This communicates your connection, concern and interest in them. If you see any situation beginning or choices that could lead down a bad road: teasing a little sister, launching off a ledge, yelling or fighting, step in quickly and begin to redirect. Be positive in your leadership, get involved and direct behavior so kids are managing themselves and their behavior.

The nice thing about being a positive leader for your children is that they appreciate your input, respect your wishes and are more likely to assimilate your values as their own. Sounds good, right!? An authoritarian parent who uses harsh punishment to control behavior has the unfortunate effect of making your children avoid you whenever possible. Not so great. Remember, these leadership qualities help children feel secure, protected and respectful. And, it makes parents feel good, too.

What are your thoughts on positive leadership?

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Leave A Reply (4 comments so far)


  1. Leah Davies
    3 years ago

    Excellent suggestions, Abby! Your tips are meaningful!!!


    • Abby
      3 years ago

      Hi Denise, Thanks for your comment! Yes, I absolutely agree that a good leader needs trust, authenticity and compassion. I appreciate your idea of parents are a steward of their children and aligning with who they are is important to guide each child to be the best version of himself. I think we quite agree, Denise.


  2. Denise Dryden
    3 years ago

    Hi Abby,

    Good article. Of course we are leaders as parents. We are the first humans our children see and model and will follow, if we believe we can lead. In my work as a parent coach I see the parent as the steward of the new soul and it is our job as a parent to prepare our children for what they see, what they experience, and how they can learn to navigate through life. AND…. I also believe it is our job to align with our child, not to bring them into alignment with our version of life. These beautiful young souls have wisdom and creativity that we have often long forgotten, and as we align with them, we learn what they see, what they experience, and we can help them integrate this into a way of living. We can translate for them, once we understand them.

    To me, leadership is a collaborative gift. When we are given permission to lead, we can step forward. Establishing the right to lead is built on trust, authenticity, and compassion. Any parent demanding leadership without self respect or self knowledge is simply asking for a power struggle from their child.

    This is a twist on most parenting approaches…. how does this feel to you?


  3. mila javier
    1 year ago

    Great….I learned that there is no need to always justify my requests but saying “Because I said so” will suffice.

    Much thanks.