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Can Preschoolers Learn Initiative?

by Joe Lawrence | May 26th, 2015 | Behavior, Preschool

little girl (400x400)Is it too early to teach your preschoolers life skills at this age? Can five-year olds grasp concepts like initiative and leadership? I think they have the ability to grasp these behavior traits and so much more.

Recently, I attended a conference on leadership for work. My boss brought leaders from all over the world to headquarters to meet and discuss issues we are having and to learn from one another. A side conversation sparked about mentoring our subordinates to set them up for their careers and what was appropriate at what levels.

A friend made a comment that anything was appropriate as long as you could make it relevant. This made me think of my little girl and how I want to prepare her for life. I do not want her to be a mindless sheep like the masses. I want her to be a leader and hopefully a positive influence in this world.

Looking back, my dad pounded leadership into my head as far as I can remember. “Lead by example” and “Do what is right, even if no one is watching you” were the underlying themes of many of our conversations. I realize I have been doing the same with my daughter and I decided to up the ante and work on initiative too.

One of my favorite articles in the Harvard Business Review is Management Time: Who’s Got the Monkey? where the article guides leaders to teach initiative to their subordinates. The premise is that there are five levels of initiative. The first is to be told what to do; then there are those that ask what to do; then recommend what needs done and wait for direction; then take action and inform the boss immediately; and finally be autonomous with occasional updates.

Obviously, we do not want our five-year olds acting autonomously just yet. However, we can teach them to not have to be told what to do all the time. We have a chore chart for my little one to do daily. She has all but mastered this and has even created her own routine to get things done efficiently. This is being told what to do. To amp things up, I added a chore to challenge her to clean something you think needs to be cleaned.

She can pick anything she wants, but she can’t ask me what to do. She can ask permission to do the task, but not what or how to do it. We are only a week in and she has done really well to this point. I am excited that she is showing initiative this early on and hopefully I can keep fostering this behavior in her.

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