Is My Child a Leader or Follower? Why I Left My Parent Teacher Conference Angry. And why we need to do better for our kids.
Is My Child a Leader or Follower? Why I Left My Parent Teacher Conference Angry
We’ve officially survived the first 9-weeks of school. Two lice scares (false ones, thank goodness), 1 strep throat, 1 stomach virus and 1 round of 4th grade Common Core division lessons – I think that constitutes a successful school starting for my kids (and mom too). However, I’m not here to talk about that. I had my first parent teacher conference for my daughter’s kindergarten class. And I confess:
It’s the first parent teacher conference where I left angry.
Now before we go all teacher judge-y on me, I have nothing against my daughter’s kindergarten teacher. She’s lovely, kind, and communicates very well with her students and parents. She’s great. But I’ve had a recurring theme regarding this pivotal year in my daughter’s learning. Leader or Follower – it’s a heavy theme throughout kindergarten as little minds master skills both important for school and life in general. And it’s a theme that has been bothering me…to the point that I’m pretty furious about it.
Stop Putting My Daughter in a Box
It all started with a simple phrase during open house.
“I’m not sure if you daughter is a leader or a follower yet.”
I was confused. I wanted to say something to her teacher right then, but I let it go. Obviously the teacher needs to know personality traits of each kid to figure their best way of learning. Perhaps she was just observing that she hasn’t figured out my daughter’s best learning capabilities yet. Or at least this is what I reasoned. Sitting in the back of my mind, the phrase kept replaying in my head with all of the scenarios of how I “wanted” to respond for the next few weeks.
Well, yesterday we had a parent teacher conference discussing my daughter’s progress. Everything was fine until we got to the subject of my daughter’s behavior.
“I still haven’t figured out if she’s a leader or a follower. There’s situations where she tends to hang back and situations where she wants to take charge.”
I froze, again. Not wanting to be labeled “that parent,” I quietly listened as we wrapped up the meeting and I sat stewing on those words, again. The world seems to be putting my daughter into a categorized box. And at only age 5, I don’t think this is good for the child or the parents. Why do we as adults feel the need to labels kids as leader or follower? This is kindergarten – the time when kids explore their personalities and begin forming their own view on life. This is the foundation level – pivotal moment in their lives. And here we are, putting them in a simplified life box.
Good Leaders Need Good Follower Skills
Some of the best leaders have the best follower skills. Good leaders listen. Good leaders let others shine. Good leaders balance their own egos with the greater good of the group. Good leaders need to know when to step back and be good followers. Good leaders have more than just external social skills – but amazing interpersonal skills.
Good Followers Can Make Great Leaders
Those quiet and shy ones? Beware – those introverts can be the most amazing leaders. Remember Abraham Lincoln, Ghandi, Einstein, Rosa Parks, J.K. Rowling? Yup, all so-called “followers.” Being shy and quiet also gives followers amazing insight, reflection and critical thinking skills. But also those followers can have courage too – and have the ability to lead when they must.
The Point: Leader or Follower, Why Can’t She Be Both?
Why can’t my child be a leader AND a follower? Why do we have define our kids as one or the other? Good or bad, right or wrong – these parenting topics have definite lines. But labeling or child as a leader OR follower can both have negative connotations. And they shouldn’t.
I think the most admirable trait my girl can have at this age is knowing when to be a leader or follower. The fact that she can oscillate between the two vastly different traits is something that many adults struggle with. Me included. It’s hard to know when to listen. It’s hard to know when to step up. It’s hard to know when to rise and when to sit down. It’s hard to look at the whole situation and decide who to be in that moment. It’s hard to choose a role when you’re looking at the greater good. But at age 5, my daughter can do this – and she does it well.
Let’s Turn the ‘Leader or Follower’ Discussion Upside Down
As adults, it’s hard for us to look beyond the categorized box. We constantly want to define our kids as something – and focus on that one thing. But Parents, we need to do better for our kids. We need to be praising our kids for being leaders AND followers. We need to stop limiting our kids’ abilities to one or the other. They can be both. They can be MORE. So much more. I want to encourage my daughter to be a Leading Follower, Following Leader – or whatever she wants to be. And even more than that, I want to make sure that she knows that being both is 100% ok with me.