Teaching Kids to Take Initiative
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Create an accepting environment. Many kids don't take initiative because they are afraid—of failing, of being laughed at, of getting in trouble. But most kids are naturally curious and want to do things. We need to encourage that. Give your kids permission to fail. To try the impossible. To set goals and pursue them. Let them know they are unconditionally loved and accepted by God and by you—no matter how the world responds. Be your child's biggest cheerleader.
Make time for creativity. Creative expression is essential for initiative to blossom. If the vast majority of their time is spent in organized, institutionalized, parent- or teacher-directed activities, it's no wonder if kids have little or no initiative. Encourage them to orchestrate unstructured activities on their own and allow them plenty of time to explore.
Teach responsibility. My oldest daughter never learned to be responsible because I dealt with everything for her. Now when my 6-year-old daughter spills milk, I ask her to bring a kitchen towel so she can help clean it up. When my 8-year-old finishes her meal, she knows to take her empty plate to the sink. When my 12-year-old's laundry is washed, she folds it herself and puts it away. These same things I teach to my oldest because they weren't already ingrained in her throughout her early years. Daily acts of responsibility become habits, habits that lead to initiative. Yes, it really is possible that one day your child will come home from school and hang up his coat up instead of dropping it on the floor.
Set a good example. We can model initiative by letting our kids see it in action. Say out loud, "This screw is coming loose, so I'm going to get a screwdriver and tighten it" or "The light bulb went out. I'll get another one and change it." Let your kids see you pick up a piece of trash in a parking lot and throw it away or change an empty roll of paper towels at church. Kids model what they see more than what they hear.
As I am learning with my four children, improving initiative can take time. Change doesn't happen overnight, but with consistency and intentionality it does happen.
Tammy Darling is a freelance writer living in Three Springs, Pennsylvania.