Brian Caswell, dean of research and program development at Mindchamps Preschool, shares his advice on nurturing leadership skills in young children:
Leadership is a mindset. It is built upon self-awareness, an understanding of the needs of others and an ability to think, plan, strategise and execute. These are processes suited to the mature mind, but you can still give your little one a good start.
Focus on developing a “theory of mind”. It refers to the ability to understand that others think differently from you – and that they see, feel and experience things in their own way.
Understanding and empathising with others is one of the hardest things for a child to learn, and it is only through a variety of social interactions that the patterns of “other behaviour” begin to register.
Help your young one develop a theory of mind by drawing her attention to emotions and reactions.
Describe how you are feeling, with phrases like: “When you do that, it makes me feel proud/sad/happy.” Draw her attention to others’ reactions, such as: “I think you made Susie unhappy/feel special, when you did that.” Or, “How do you think that made Jamie feel?”
It is important that she understands cause and effect, especially at an emotional level. A leader knows that actions will have consequences for herself, as well as others.
Children learn this best through peer play. Organise play dates with different children to inculcate a theory of mind.