Teaching Kids to Take Initiative
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As a result, I have the difficult task of teaching my teenager about the importance of taking initiative. And even though it's not a "skill," I can show her what initiative looks like. While it would have been easier when she was younger, I am encouraged nevertheless. She is making slow but steady progress.
Lack of initiative is characterized by the following:
Leaving unfinished projects and unnecessary clutter
Assuming someone else will do it
Allowing busyness to interfere with responsibility
Waiting for a perfect time, which never comes
The importance of teaching our children to take initiative cannot be overstated. And thankfully, there are many ways we can train our kids in this area. Here's how:
Allow your kids to make some decisions. Even a two-year-old can choose between the red shirt and the blue shirt, between a grilled cheese sandwich and a ham sandwich. As they get older, allow them to make more important decisions like choosing extra-curricular activities or deciding whether they need a math tutor. It's temping to make these kinds of decisions for them, but kids really do need to learn from their own mistakes and stand on their own two feet. A child of eight who's not allowed to make some independent decisions will become an adult of 28 who's unable to make independent decisions.
Encourage your children to do things on their own. Yes, it's quicker and less frustrating to do things for your kids—tying their shoes, loading their backpacks, folding their laundry—but doing so does them a great disservice. Learning to do these things on their own and consistently trying new things is a real confidence builder. Anytime your kids want to take responsibility for a task (one that's reasonably safe!), be sure to let them. While it may not be done as well or as quickly as you'd like, praise their initiative and know that they'll get better with each effort, mistake, and success.
Teach critical-thinking skills. When your kids come to you with questions, don't automatically give them answers. Use the questions to improve their thinking skills, a crucial element of initiative. I like to turn questions back around to my kids by saying something like "What do you think you should do?" or "What might happen if you choose Y? What could happen if you choose Z instead?" These questions can help unlock the answer for kids so they learn to make wise choices on their own.
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