A leader who can stand his or her husband… but only at school!


By Lourindi Nel

I have yet to meet the parent who doesn’t like the idea of ​​their child showing strong leadership qualities. It is only natural to want to see that our children are self-confident and can stand their ground in a social context. We preferably do not want our children to allow others to walk over them or deprive them of the opportunity to state and defend their point of view. Ideally, our children should believe in themselves enough to be able to make a positive contribution in a group context, to negotiate for what is important to them and to ask questions if something does not make sense.

Ironically, all these qualities are often also the same qualities that make us butt heads at home and can easily be filed in the category of “disrespectful”.

Sometimes we just want to give an order, and it must be accepted and carried out without any questions or resistance – parenting heaven! The fact of the matter is, however, that the world in which our children move and must function successfully no longer looks like it did even just 20 years ago. In the outside world it is no longer safe to just accept without any consideration that everything others say is true and without thinking just do it. Academically, emotionally and morally, demands are made on our children that were not even a possibility a few decades ago.

Times have changed and so have what our children need to become successful, well-adjusted people. The days of “children are seen and not heard” are long gone. If we want strong children at school, we have to make peace with strong children at home. As parents, it is our responsibility to create a safe microcosm for our children in which they can learn and practice the necessary skills.

By the nature of the matter, this is easier said than done, because as much as we want to raise strong leaders, no one wants to send an unfit person into life. Where does the balance lie? How do we teach our children to stand with conviction and respect for what they believe and take guidance where necessary?

Research suggests that we build neural pathways through repeated experience. Few things teach our children how to behave socially appropriately like repeated, personal experiences within the family. Before we can share, we have to be shared many times. Before we can have patience, we have to be patiently worked with many times. Even in the Bible, the apostle Paul teaches the church in Corinthians to take comfort with the same comfort they received. This is a principle – what we want to get out, we sometimes have to put in for years. Within the context of parenting, it’s not always as simple as talking nicely and not yelling.


Here are some practical parenting techniques that can help convey the right things in the right way:

  • A try again: This technique works particularly well for incidents where a child (or a parent) has acted disrespectfully or inappropriately. Quite simply, it offers the “offender” the opportunity to try again and improve without any negative consequences for the thoughtless first round. It’s also a technique that leaves room for a bit of humor in that one can playfully return the situation to the point where things went wrong and start again as if the mistake had not happened. If the reaction is still not as desired, one can add a little more guidelines, for example: “Let’s try again, with respect or without a mouth full of food”. Not only does this give us a moment to think about what the appropriate behavior is, we also allow the brain to immediately correct the error so that a healthy neural pathway is strengthened and the wrong behavior decays.
  • Find a middle ground: Poor cooperation, bickering and persistent procrastination when things need to happen can break any parent’s speed and courage. Teaching children that they can ask for a compromise – with the understanding that it can be granted or rejected – gives children a voice in situations where they sometimes feel powerless and react in a negative way. A compromise works well when parent and child have different immediate goals. Both must communicate what is important to them and, taking into account both interests, find an acceptable middle ground together. For example, a parent may agree to give a child an extra 10 minutes after bedtime to finish building a puzzle while the child agrees to give full cooperation in the morning routine. In this way, a child learns to state their side of a matter clearly and logically and also to listen to the other side of a matter. They feel heard and also have insight into the solution so that cooperation is given more readily.
  • What plan can we make?: This strategy cultivates a mindset of problem solving in children. It works very efficiently for situations where parent or child feels overwhelmed and does wonders for the development of a teamwork culture in a family. When it feels like a dead end has been reached in a situation, simply ask: What plan can we make? Identify the problem or challenge together, and formulate a plan together that works for both parties. For young children, or children who are not yet used to this approach, it is sometimes necessary to direct the process a little with suggestions in the form of a question (for example: “What do you think about…?” with two or three options).

These techniques offer parents the opportunity to turn potentially negative parent-child interactions into positive growth experiences. A healthy parent-child relationship offers a child an unparalleled sense of security. Where this is in place, the family becomes the ideal context for experimenting with different ways of speaking and doing. This is a place where the risk of rejection should be significantly less than, for example, between peers. A family culture within which a child is allowed to respectfully take their side and explain their view or request, to honestly show and process their big emotions and not have to work for love or acceptance, offers an experience that loud and clear the underlines the child’s personal value and the value of their contribution in society.

May we remember anew that we cannot just insist on good behavior, but must lead from the beginning by being the people we want our children to become.

  • This article is the third one in a series of columns and podcasts about parenting, and the next article will appear on July 4th. Lourindi has been a child and adult counselor in Centurion for the past 20 years. She is happily married and the proud mother of four children – a 17-year-old, a 9-year-old, and twins aged 5. Her passion is to empower families through parenting guidance, parenting workshops and any other possible way to function healthily and happily. . Follow her up Facebook or Instagramor send a WhatsApp to 062 374 2847.