Nurturing Leadership Qualities in Young Children - A Simple Tale by Jayalakshmi

“It’s easier to build strong children than to repair broken men” – Frederick Douglas

What does it take for a school to nurture all their children to become 21st century leaders? Is that even possible? Are leaders born or are they made?

Leadership is developed when children are encouraged to try, think, experiment, fail, fall, speak, listen, take decisions, dream, take responsibilities, make mistakes, imagine and be fair.   


Rosa is three years old and lives with her parents in Bangalore.  Her father is an IT professional and travels frequently. Her mother is a bank employee and works five days a week.
Rosa has a live-in Nanny, Josie, who takes care of her needs. Her parents are very happy that they have found such a reliable caretaker, although Nanny Josie did not possess any formal qualifications in child care.

Now Rosa has turned four. Like most children, her curiosity and eagerness to explore the world grew and Nanny Josie was always with her in these little adventures and explorations.

When Rosa played in the garden, her nanny often said: “Don’t spoil your nice dress. Your mom has paid a lot of money for it.” If Rosa wanted to choose her clothes, her nanny intervened: “I will choose the best dress for you.”

At times when Rosa played in the rain, her nanny forbade her: “Don’t get wet in the rain, you will fall sick.” When Rosa wanted to run, her nanny used words of caution: “Don’t run, you’ll fall and your mom will say I did not take care of you properly.”  

If Rosa wanted to have a bath by herself or brush her teeth, her nanny jumped in: “You can’t bathe or brush like that, I will help you with it.” On days when Rosa wanted to eat by herself, her nanny, as was the custom by now, said: “No you will spoil your dress and create a mess.”

Thus, Rosa grew up for the first 10 years of her life with an incessant barrage of: ”No, you can’t do it, I will do it for you” or “Don’t do that!”

Her class teacher Nirmala had always thought of Rosa as an intelligent girl, eager to learn and curious. Strangely, these days, she found the child to be withdrawn and quiet. Rosa had low self-esteem, and her confidence was shaken.  She thought others were better than her. 
Her mother noticed that her daughter was not able to stand up for herself and had become increasingly dependent. Rosa was hesitant to do her own work and seldom took any initiative.

This led to frequent arguments in the family. Rosa’s academic scores nosedived. Finally, her parents felt that their expectations of bringing up a successful daughter were slowly and disappointingly, failing.

Her mother decided to enroll Rosa for tuitions after the next PTM. When Rosa’s mother met Nirmala at the PTM, she expressed her concerns about Rosa. Nirmala, in turn, gave the mother a quick course on PARENTING.

Since the school’s curriculum also taught life skills, the children were already involved in various activities to improve communication skills, develop leadership abilities and build a positive personality.

There was one condition, though. Both parents will have to invest time, energy and resources to bring back the curiosity in the child.

If Rosa was involved in taking simple decisions for the house, allowed to experiment in planning certain activities for their home, made responsible for her own daily activities, involved in general conversations, asked for opinions, allowed to make mistakes, allowed to learn and adjust from failures, encouraged to give opinions and permitted to have a dream for herself, she can shine and lead herself in the path of success.

Her parents decided to test their learning from Nirmala’s lesson.  They began to engage Rosa in the matters of the family and trusted her abilities. Today, Rosa is 16.  She has transformed into a confident teenager. She has won much recognition in public speaking and debates. She wants to be a journalist and she knows her parents and teachers believe in her. The leader in Rosa has raised her head!
This short story by Jayalakshmi poses an important question: Can a child become a leader if the freedom of decision-making is restricted for the first 18 years of life?
Leadership skills, read as life skills, are a very significant set of tools to deal with our ever-changing environment.

Perhaps, there isn’t anything more pertinent as it is in the case of children with evolving maturities and levels of understanding. Today’s child is raised in a fiercely competitive atmosphere. There is constant pressure to excel in academics, sports and social behavior, to name a few.

Parents need to pay extra attention to raise their children who grow up with balanced psychologies. It’s no longer just about food, clothes and medicines. Parents of this century must be aware that their children’s success will simply not be a measure of college grades but largely, will depend on their communication and leadership skills.

Your teacher loves you”, is the first sentence children hear when they are being disciplined. Childhood is only for a few years, it should be filled with beautiful memories. School is another most impressionable place in a child’s life after home. For two years now Jayalakshmi has been imparting stories and experiences of life in a fun way using many activities like case studies, team games, thinking games and debates to prepare the little ones for life and not just exams.