I remember when I was in treatment there was one particular session where we had to sit in pairs of threes and tell the other people in our group something that we’ve learned about them. The group I was in consisted of myself and 2 younger men in their 20s. I don’t remember anything else about that group, or even anything that was said to me, but I do remember that the one young man looked at the other when it was his turn to share and said, “Something I’ve learned about you is that you’re a leader, but you are too afraid to own that role.”
I was very struck by what he said, not only because it was the truth, but also because it was a very astute observation. The young man sitting there was in fact a leader, the qualities were there and whenever he spoke people listened, but at the same time you could tell that he didn’t feel that way about himself just yet. I’m not sure if he didn’t feel this way because he was only 30 days sober at the time or for some other reason that I cannot know, but today when I was thinking about this story it made me wonder how we could use leadership skills as a preventative measure for drug addiction. How by instilling leadership qualities in children we could possibly give them a sense of purpose and direction that could lead them away from drug and alcohol abuse. This is also helpful when dealing with life showing up in sobriety. When you have a purpose and direction it is much harder to throw everything away when you get thwarted by circumstances that are difficult.
One of the main things that I always hear from people who are in recovery is that they felt like they had no purpose and that they only discovered a purpose once they got sober. That most of their life they seemed to wander aimlessly with no real sense of who they were or what they were doing, but once they were shown the importance of helping others and the importance of being a part of a community, this all changed. I believe that part of the reason for this is because once a person gets sober and they begin sponsoring others,speaking at meetings, and participating in all that we do in recovery, they step into a role of leadership, in a sense, and because of this they gain some direction.
How this translates to preventative measures for substance abuse is that by instilling these same qualities in children, from an early age, it may give some of them the sense of self-worth necessary so that they can avoid being tempted to do harmful things like abuse drugs or alcohol. This is not something new, or something that I am just coming up, but inspiring leadership in the youth is a part of many preventative programs. It has proven to be a successful method in bringing at-risk youth back from the brink and the juvenile justice system attempts to do this in many of their rehabilitation programs. Although, you do not need to wait for things to get bad before instilling leadership qualities in your children, any parent can do so without even putting forth much effort.
One of the best ways to instill leadership qualities in your children is by enrolling them in some sort of team activity. For many this means a sport of some kind, although I will say that if your child is not athletically inclined this could have the opposite effect. But if they are even mildly athletic, getting them involved in a sport can go a long way towards showing them how to be a leader. It shows them how to operate under pressure and it shows them how to handle losing, which is not only important in leadership, but is important in life as well. Playing on a team also teaches kids teamwork and it shows them how to give and take in social situations, which is important if they are to move away from the egocentric thinking of youth and into the more communal thinking of a well adjusted adult.
Another way that you can show your child how to be a leader is by setting the example yourself. If as a parent you are wishy-washy, meaning you do not stand by your word and you do not lead them, then they will not have a good barometer for a leader looks like. Leading your child by setting boundaries for them and being consistent with your word can go a long way in helping them to become leaders themselves. They will have a better understanding for what is acceptable behavior, and what isn’t, and having this mental framework will help them to develop a moral compass and sense of self that allows them to be success in life and avoid damaging situations, like using drugs and alcohol.
Paper routes are sort of a thing of the past at this point, but giving your child the opportunity “to earn their own keep” is another great way to instill leadership qualities. Whether this means having chores for them and then paying them an allowance, or just letting them come up with their own little business, it can really be helpful in terms of building confidence and work ethic. You will know better than I what this would look like for your child and encouraging these sort of entrepreneurial endeavors can really help instill independence and a sense of self that will be important in the years to come.
While having leadership qualities is not a guaranteed way to keep your child from falling into substance abuse, it can help give them the foundation they need in order to make good decisions at critical moments in their lives. If they are not used to sticking up for themselves or speaking their mind, they may be more apt to go along with trying drugs or alcohol than if they had a firm sense of self.
Rose Lockinger is a passionate member of the recovery community. A rebel who found her cause, she uses blogging and social media to raise the awareness about the disease of addiction. She has visited all over North and South America. Single mom to two beautiful children she has learned parenting is without a doubt the most rewarding job in the world.