Parents are the clear influencers in child development during the early years of children’s lives, but they continue to have a lasting impact on development throughout early adulthood. Whether a grown person has adequate communication or leadership skills may be directly determined by how they were raised. In this respect, parenting styles are a crucial component of adult behavior, and as such, they should be adopted with purposefulness to reflect familial values but also to enhance the chances of socioeconomic success for the child as he or she reaches adulthood. Through research, reflection and personal experience, it can be concluded that leadership development is not birthed only in adulthood through experience, but it is cultivated during childhood through parental coaching and modeling.
There are multiple parenting styles that impact development, and more specifically, leadership development. For example, authoritarian parental styles are very oppressive, and children are taught not to question their parents (Williams-Washington, Melon & Blau, 2008). Consequences are not often explained, and children are simply told what to do and what not to do because their parents said so. This style negatively impacts leadership development because it suppresses innovation and communication. Children raised in this manner may struggle socially and have less long-term success (Murphy & Johnson, 2011). In contrast, authoritative parenting styles happen when parents lead by example, and this style tends to have children who have minimal behavioral problems and better academic success (Williams-Washington et al., 2008). Authoritative parental styles have the best chance of creating successful future leaders. Parents encourage their children to be independent, but they set limits to make sure they do not hurt themselves or others. Children are given privacy but not complete freedom, and restrictions are limited. Authoritative parenting styles are accepted as the best for childhood development, and other styles, such as neglectful or indulgent parenting, also have had poor results (Murphy & Johnson, 2011).
There is no way to guarantee that one approach will allow a child to develop in the best manner, and in fact, parents are not solely responsible for development. They influence their children by purposefully and accidentally instilling their values in their children, but children have to process these values. In processing, they combine those values into the values that they already have, and that integration creates a new set of values. The older a child is, the less influence the parent has. As a child ages, both parents and children must agree to disagree at times, and they must compromise. This is why parents end up teaching older kids through coaching and modeling. When coaching, a parent specifically recommends ways to react to certain circumstances. When modeling, a parent responds to a situation properly in order to show the child one way to behave. Coaching and modeling definitely fit the authoritative parenting style, but the results of this approach differ depending on the child. Multifinality is when one parenting style creates different results for different children. It is why siblings can be so different despite being raised similarly. Equifinality is when multiple styles create one result, and this can be seen when children from different backgrounds behave similarly (Williams-Washington et al., 2008). This reflects the truth that a parent may be assured that they are parenting properly, but it still depends on the child’s integration of those teachings into their own life. Good parenting does not necessarily result in childhood success, but it gives children a fighting chance.
The parents of this writer were at times authoritarian but became more authoritative as time passed. They realized that conflict was the only environment that could exist in an authoritarian style, so they started to ease their style to one of modeling and coaching. This instilled behavior that a child could look up to, and it resulted in this writer becoming more independent and confident in decision-making. One example of them priming this writer to be a good leader was this writer’s mother climbing the ladder at her place of employment. She worked hard at night studying organizational behavior and strategic management in order to turn the business around, and it paid off immensely. This was modeling for this writer because it showed that hard work is required in order to lead successful change. This writer’s father has also coached this writer to get involved in extra curricular activities and never be afraid to lead when the situation calls for it. Both parents are very supportive, and it has caused this writer to engage in very little questionable or poor behavior, as it improved decision-making abilities.
Coaching and modeling is an excellent way to create an environment where a child can build the skills to be a leader. An authoritative parenting style will help to further these skills by limiting barriers to personal experience and allowing for teaching and guiding moments rather than punitive consequences. Those who are told what to do and never allowed to think for themselves, such as in authoritarian parenting, may be stunted in their communication development and other skills needed to become a leader. No amount of parenting can guarantee a successful child, and it ultimately depends on the child combining parental values with his or her own values that creates the level of development in an adult. Therefore, if a parent wants to give a child all the tools for success, they should model excellency and coach children to be free thinkers, and this furthers their chances for success.
- Murphy, S.E. & Johnson, S.K. (2011). The benefits of a long-lens approach to leader development: Understanding the seeds of leadership. The Leadership Quarterly, 22. doi:10.1016/j.leaqua.2011.04.004
- Williams-Washington, K.N., Melon, J., & Blau, G.M. (2008). Childhood growth and development within a family context. Family Influences on Childhood Behavior and Development: Evidence-based prevention and treatment approaches (21-38). New York: Routledge.