Search the site

Growing Leaders Blog

on Leading the Next Generation


Four Secrets to Leading Kids For Teachers and Parents


I am all about leading the next generation well. Our new tag line at Growing Leaders is Preparing Tomorrow’s Leaders Today. That’s it in a nutshell. So, in today’s blog, I want to furnish some practical ideas on leading young people that any caring adult can use. See what you think…and please add to the list in the comment section: 

1. Enlist your kids in their own growth.

Effective parents I know allow their children (ages 8 and up) to choose their own rewards and punishments. Our instinct is to seize control and order our kids around, but that hasn’t worked too well for many. When we enlist our kids in their own upbringing or class regiment, we give them skills for life. Teachers can do the same thing in class. Let students and their peers choose rewards and disciplines, and let them become judge and jury for each other. This helps them “own” it.

2. Get creative in conflict resolution.

When students hit a speed bump with each other and conflict arises, they often resort to a “my way or the highway” mindset. Why not follow the example of many effective teachers and parents who’ve adapted a conflict resolution process from the Harvard Negotiation Project, used in peace talks and union strikes:

  • Separate the kids for a few minutes to let the emotions calm a bit.
  • Encourage them to come up with two to three solutions, not just their own.
  • Vote on a winner, involving both peers and caring adults. 

3. Connect them with their heritage.

Some families I know play a little game called, “Do You Know?” At a meal, they ask, “Do you know where your grandparents grew up?” Or, “Do you know how your parents met?” Or, “Do you know someone in your family who overcame a life or death hardship?” This is not only amusing, but it connects them with their past. Teachers can do the same type of thing with classmates, other faculty or coaches. It’s a healthy exercise helping a “Touch Screen” generation take a break from Google. 

4. Create environments for them to connect with adults.

Did you know that the majority of a teen’s time each week is spent with peers, not adults? As kids grow, they spend less time with the demographic they will need to know how to connect with—as they become adults. So, why not plan parties that adults attend, but have kids host them? Or, set up mentoring meals where your student can meet an adult who has a job in the field they want to enter. These inter-generational connections cultivate emotional intelligence in kids and enable them to feel more comfortable with future bosses.

What would you add to this list?



  1. Bill on May 14, 2013 at 7:37 am

    Hey Tim, I know you guys live in Georgia so maybe you can tell us what a “peach talk” is, or were you just craving one of those shakes from Chic-fil-a?

    Good stuff!

    • Tim Elmore on May 14, 2013 at 9:23 am

      That looked like a typo, Bill! While a peach milkshake may have been on my mind, I was referring to “peace talks and union strikes”. Thanks for the comment!

      • Ralph M. Rickenbach on May 14, 2013 at 9:54 am

        I’m positive that you were thinking about impeachment – a strategy of conflict resolution necessary at times. As long as it is followed by reconciliation. 😉

  2. Joseph Lalonde on May 14, 2013 at 5:44 pm

    Connect with them on their level, not what you think is their level – I’ve seen it time and again where a leader tries to connect with a student thinking they’re on a far lower level than they really are. You can just see the students getting frustrating for being treated in such a way.

  3. Lori Dunlap on February 12, 2014 at 8:11 pm

    Tim, these are fresh, great ideas (I love hearing an idea I haven’t heard 100 times before!) Here’s what I’d add:

    1) Expanding on your first suggestion, we should also enlist kids in their own education. Asking them about how they like to learn (sometimes they don’t even know until they think about it), and what they’re in the mood to learn/work on each day (some days feel like math days, others don’t — just a fact of life) gives them a chance to tap into their intrinsic motivation. I’m regularly amazed at what they choose — often way beyond what I would have given them!

    2) Teach them skills for managing their emotions. Stress is on the rise, even amongst the youngest students. Stress and other big emotions are distracting and prevent full attention on what students are learning. As current research is telling us, attention is the bedrock of learning.

    Thanks for a great post!

Leave a Comment

Four Secrets to Leading Kids For Teachers and Parents