Teaching Kids to Take Initiative

Techniques for training them to do it themselves

Two teenagers attend a new church's youth group. No one speaks to them. One says, "I'll go back next week and if no one speaks to me, I won't go back." The other says, "I'll go back next week and if no one speaks to me, I'll strike up a conversation with someone."

Two teenagers, one scenario, two very different responses. The difference is one word: initiative. Training our children to be proactive and take initiative can make all the difference in their lives.

Initiative Defined

We generally think of initiative as recognizing and doing what needs to be done before being asked. And that's true. But initiative is so much more.

Initiative believes in the possibilities of opportunity; it sees opportunity where others see barriers. Initiative taps God-given inner creativity to tackle persistent problems without giving up. Initiative goes the extra mile.

Initiative has nothing to do with skills or education. It's a positive spirit, an awareness, a proactive mindset.

Kids with initiative will take their talents and multiply them, increasing their involvement in life. Such children take action without being asked to and readily capitalize on opportunities that others pass by.

Mastering schoolwork is largely due to initiative. As the years increase, so do the homework and responsibilities—and the need for self-motivation and self-discipline.

Initiative is crucial for succeeding in school. Students who start projects when they're assigned and work diligently are bound to do better than those who procrastinate and wait until the last minute to start working.

Initiative is a trait that will serve our kids well all their lives. In the working world, initiative is often what separates those who get raises and promotions from those who don't. And what our children learn now regarding initiative will likely determine what they pass on to their own kids.

Lack of Initiative

It seems fairly common for firstborn children to lack initiative—unless they're deliberately taught the skills necessary to take initiative early on. Parents tend to do just about everything for their firstborn, but by the second or third child, life is busier than ever and these children must, by default, do more things for themselves. The oldest child may have always come home from school expecting a snack to be ready while subsequent siblings will come home and get their own snack without a second thought.

With my firstborn, I was the ultimate helicopter parent. Where my daughter went, I followed. I did practically everything for her, for fear she'd get hurt or overly frustrated. Today I have a 16-year-old who takes very little initiative.

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