"A boss says 'Go!' A leader says 'Let's go.'" This old saying goes to the heart of true leadership: a spirit of collaboration.
All children have the ability to lead. Whether they're shy or outgoing, children who are involved in a cause or activity they're passionate about can develop new skills for leadership and teamwork. A student at a Bexleyheath school discovered this for herself by teaming up with her classmates for a good cause.
When Tejal Vadukal, 11, raced through the doors of Brampton Primary Academy on the morning of 24 October, her face lit up.
Goblins, witches and superheroes swarmed the halls armed with cereal boxes, tinned beans and sweetcorn. Dressed up for the school's first "We Scare Hunger" event, a food collection campaign driven by international charity Free The Children, teachers and classmates scrambled to fit all the items they'd brought into cardboard donation boxes.
For Tejal, a key member of the event's organising team, seeing her schoolmates come together to tackle local hunger and poverty was inspiring.
"I've started to think more about others than just myself," she says. "It makes me feel good inside to help."
In the days leading up to the food collection, Tejal and her classmates gathered over their lunch break to make colourful posters and decorate the donation boxes. As a Year 6 student, she was also responsible for motivating younger children to participate in the food collection, a role she says taught her about leadership.
"It's helped me grow," she says. "A good leader is someone who listens to others rather than just putting forth their idea."
The strength of her team was never more apparent than on the day of the event. Students helped each other pile tins into the boxes and worked together to load the heavy boxes into the car. In the end, there was so much food that they had to make three trips to the local foodbank!
For their efforts to lead the We Scare Hunger campaign, Tejal and her fellow students earned tickets to the second annual We Day UK-a stadium-sized event that brings together world-renowned speakers and performers to celebrate the actions of tens of thousands of young leaders.
The experience of taking action also taught Tejal that small contributions can add up to a huge impact, and that every member can bring something unique and valuable to the team.
"My biggest qualities are my commitment and enthusiasm," Tejal says. "Everyone has different qualities, so when we come together it's really nice."
Three tips on how to help your child discover skills for leadership and teamwork:
1. Practise teamwork at home through the completion of a group task. Come up with an activity you can do at home as a family, such as baking cupcakes. Each person can have a turn at being the leader by assigning tasks to other family members based on individual strengths. While one person may be skilled at measuring ingredients, another may be great at cracking eggs, mixing, decorating, or washing up.
2. Hold family meetings to discuss conflict in a calm, productive atmosphere. Encourage your child to take note of how they communicate with other family members. Resolve any conflict that may arise in a respectful manner through careful listening, honesty and empathy. Each family member can take a turn being the meeting facilitator.
3. Have your children take turns teaching you something. Whether it's an activity such as learning how to make a paper mâché piñata, how to skateboard or how to play a simple guitar riff, take note of the way your child communicates instructions to you and how he or she gives feedback and encouragement.
Want more tips for raising socially conscious children? As an international charity and educational partner with a 19-year history of working with young people all over the world, Free The Children, among its many initiatives, provides free educational resources for local and global issues to help you make a difference: from fun activities you can do at home to awareness and fundraising campaigns. Visit www.freethechildren.co.uk. Free The Children's partner organisation We Day is a series of events that inspire and empower young people to be active local and global citizens. We Day UK will be held on 5 March at The SSE Arena, Wembley.
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