Fred Swaniker is the founder- Africa Leadership Group which includes the African Leadership University (ALU) and the soon to be launched ALX Launchpad in Nairobi. Here he discusses how every parent can help their child achieve their greatest potential.
Be a great example
How you behave immediately sets the tone for what leadership skills your child will have as they grow up. As a parent, you are the first role model and leader with whom the child interacts with. Do you listen to your children, allow them to learn (even by making mistakes) and give constructive feedback or do you just order them around? Do you have integrity? Do you act fairly or tell lies? What values do you believe and practice while at home? Who are you exposing them to? Children watch and learn from you. It is never too early to expose your child to great mentors. Let them see you socializing and interacting with the people you admire and as they grow take them to where these mentors work so they can see their success in action.
Evaluate a school’s culture before you enrol
A well run institution with great leadership sets the right culture for your child. The right school culture sets high expectations for pupils, while exposing them to good values and characters, commendable role models and mentorship opportunities. This kind of environment inspires a child to perform well not just for you, but for them. If you walk into a school and you feel at home, feel love, care, curiosity and compassion, your child will undoubtedly thrive in that kind of environment. All people children included perform to expectations. So as a parent if you continuously affirm a young child. Express love and belief in them while endorsing achievement, that child will develop and maintain confidence to then go ahead and become successful.
Find your child’s area of interest
All children are born with great potential and it is the parent’s job to find what this potential is. High performance from young people comes from merging their passions with the opportunities to practice these passions. It’s about exposing them to as many things as possible in terms of people, careers, places, activities and environments then carefully listening and watching and not trying to impose your own dreams to the child. Eventually you will identify their areas of strengths and weakness and focus on nurturing their unique talents and capabilities.
Set your child up for success
We have identified what we call the seven meta-skills of the 21st century that are critical for success. These are; critical thinking, leading yourself, leading others, quantitative reasoning, effectively communicating for impact, entrepreneurial thinking and the ability to manage complex tasks and projects. With artificial intelligence and robotics coming up, there’s an eighth skill all future leaders must have and that is digital literacy including coding and programming because that is the way of the future.
Instil confidence in your child
As the old African adage goes, ‘children should only speak when they are spoken to.’ But innovative children who evolve into leaders speak up when they need to. You don’t need necessarily extensive tools and resources to instill this trait. All you need to do is spend positive and quality time with your child. Naturally, educational tools, extra-curricular activities and lessons and books go a long way and if you can, you should most certainly make use of them. Focus however on building confidence –which pushes them to learn for themselves.
Build confidence, but not arrogance. It’s about instilling a belief in them that they are worthy human beings who deserve to be on earth, and encouraging them to be inquisitive. You can do this by exposing them to very many free educational resources which you can find online for free or once again, tapping into your existing networks. Innovative children are not to be interpreted as insolent. They ask questions to know more, and have been given the freedom to explore more. The key is to give them the hunger to learn and from there the potential is limitless.