Can I teach my child to lead gently?

By virtue of his father being 6 foot 6 in height, my three year old (J) is a bit of a giant. The last time he was on any kind of height for age chart was when he was three months old and at his day care he is easily one of the tallest kids, even though he’s nowhere near the oldest. The other day when the shopping got delivered to our house the delivery man asked him what year he was in at school.

By virtue of his late July birthday, J won’t start Pre-Primary (proper school) until 2015 and Ant and I are a bit freaked out at the size he’s going to be by then. Now I have heard that boys benefit hugely from starting school a bit later and maybe J will also find those early school years easier if he is physically larger than the other kids too. But then I saw something the other day that made me … not worry … but think.

*Prepare yourself for a ride on a rollercoaster that is the mind of a serial over thinker*

Last week Ant and I went to pick up J from day care and as we do, we hid ourselves inside so we could observe him for a little while. Two boys (E & B) were wrestling on the ground and when they finished wrestling one started crying. J hadn’t even seen the incident but when he heard E crying he stomped over, decided B had hurt him, and promptly told B off: ‘Uh OH B!’.

Which then made B cry.

Ant and I had a giggle because it was all very cute but then it made me realise that, at what I consider the rather tender age of three, J has taken on a bit of a leadership role in his group of ragtag day care friends.

This of course got me thinking about school and the fact that by the time he gets there his size will almost guarantee him a similar kind of role whether he does it consciously or not (I would have my money on ‘not’ as J is a bit of a space cadet like his mother.)

Then I got thinking about Lance Armstrong and how he was the undisputed leader of not just the cycling teams he rode on, but the whole peloton in his years in the sport. But fear and bullying were a much greater feature of his leadership than respect was.

And I thought ‘I don’t want J to be a Lance Armstrong kind of leader, I want him to lead gently and by example’ – like all the great leaders I’ve had in my life.

Which of course lead me to wondering:

  • Is this something I can teach my little boy?
  • Can I teach him to lead gently?
  • Should I be making the effort to sure he leads by example?

Or should I just stop over thinking things?! All thoughts and opinions welcome :)


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  1. says

    Kelly – J has the potential to be moulded to be inspiring.
    I’ve had more than a few boys who were ‘big for their ages’ to care for.
    One thing I have said over and over in the past 25 years ( and chuckle when I hear it said by the boys) is to ‘Use your powers wisely”. It’s a Yoda kind of thing.
    When it’s explained that everyone has different kinds of powers, strengths talents – and with those ‘powers’ come great responsibility – most kids will step into being sensible with it.

    Sometimes at day care – the ratio allows kids to self monitor and because of this – there will be key players who will step into situations like you described.
    Really it’s not their place to yet. If you can explain to J that it’s great to protect and stop bad things happening – but that it’s not his role to be judge and jury – he’ll learn to assess and act – rather than just react.

    Give the boy a cape! He’s a superhero, simply because his mum is Mrs Incredible :)

    • says

      Ha! I did wonder if I should have told him to be a little more gentle in his ‘telling off’.

      But I am happy to hear you think I can influence him in this way – It is actually quite a big concern for me!

  2. says

    My lad is also always the tallest of his peers. The downside is that people think he’s older and therefore expect him to behave as if he’s older.

    I too have had fears of him being a bully and he’s had his moments but he’s turning into a leader – not that I think it’s really anything to do with his height.

    I think you just keep doing what you’re doing. Lead by example and try not to overthink it. You can’t really control it.

  3. says

    I think in the grand scheme of things, you really can’t control anything
    However, you can show him and lead the way
    The path he chooses, is his choice in the end – and all the consequences that come with it
    Over the years, I am letting go more and trying not to ‘over think’ things
    Especially things that I cannot control

  4. says

    I think that leaders are born, not necessarily made. We are either one or the other. But you can definitely guide him the best way to be a leader. Just like everything, it comes down to manners and respect. He is still young and finding his way in the world, he needs to explore and learn for himself along the way with your guidance as to right and wrong. I’m sure young J will turn into an inspiring and thoughtful leader and you will have nothing to worry about x

    • says

      I love that idea Jodes – that if he IS born to be a leader, then I can guide him in the best way to be one. That is definitely a really nice thought!

  5. says

    I’m definitely of the ‘where you lead, he will follow’ school of thought. So if you are gentle, he will likely learn that, in a great big boy kind of way. One day in the distant future you will be appalled at the behaviour and vigorous language of teenage boys, but… it’ll just be a stage. My eldest is tall, I think it can be a real advantage in life.

    About that over thinking…. it’s so weird being a parent. We do have such power and on the other hand so little. I really work hard to stay in the moment… it’s the only place to be.

  6. says

    Kelly – I think you answered your own question when you said you want him to ‘lead gently and by example’ – so show him all those people who have ‘lead gently and by example’ (Nelson Mandela & Gandhi come to mind). Tell him their story – he’ll get it.
    I like Marina approach – about having special gifts which come with responsibility.
    And I like what Josefa said – that in the end you have to leave him to choose his own path.
    Happy Parenting! :) x

  7. says

    My 3 year old feels it is his duty to be both judge and jury in so many of these little situations. I worry about it too because lord knows I can’t reason with him right now in the “tantruming” phase. I was recently told about a surge in testosterone around this age so I’m pinning my hopes on that! (another over-thinker here in case you couldn’t tell!).

    • says

      It’s funny because apparently my hubby was a little ‘policeman’ back in his toddler days. I think it is hilarious that J has that trait too. And I am very interested tohear about this apparent testosterone surge … I will be doing some reading up on that one!! It’s friggin hard this parenting gig isn’t it? How can we NOT over think it?

  8. says

    As I mentioned on Twitter Kel, take a look into ‘Emotional Intelligence’ (EI). It’s basically helping your child to learn and identify the emotions and feelings that they experience, and then helping them to understand those same emotions in others. The last piece of the EI puzzle is guiding your child in how to respond to those feelings within themselves and from other people. Give them a healthy dose of empathy, pretty much.

    Will email you some more info so I’m not writing a novel of a comment – but for others reading this that are interested in learning more about EI – check out

    • says

      I have come across the concept of Emotional Intelligence Michelle but haven’t done a lot of reading on the topic. I definitely will be now though. And thank you for your email clarifying further – so much good stuff to think about in there!!

  9. says

    What a gorgeous post hun and I too have a little giant starting school next year. Observing (or stalking in my case) is something I love to do with my youngest at kindy and I have often wondered the same things myself. I think leading by example is the way to go and you are such a beautiful soul your little leader could not ever hope for a better role model. xx

  10. says

    Our Max is a giant, as his dad and mum are. He is fortunately very gentle by nature, but as Bart points out, it’s still important that he knows how to ‘handle himself’. By virtue of the fact that little men always seem to want to have a go at the big men to ‘prove themselves’, Bart has always maintained that the only way to stand your ground and refuse to have that fight is to KNOW that you would win in a heart beat. Max does Tae Kwon Do.


    • says

      Jaden is fortunately very gentle by nature too … but is also a bit of a ‘policeman’ {as this post illustrates!}. I think I want him to be a gentle policeman!

      And that whole knowing how to handle yourself is a good one *makes mental note about tae kwon do*