How We Train Our Kids to Be Leaders

A neighbor recently commented that my oldest daughter, Sophie, is such a leader. She went on to say Sophie does an excellent job of getting other kids together and organizing activities without being bossy or demanding. I thanked her for the compliment. Then went on to tell her, “My goal is for Sophie to be a leader, but I actually never tell her to be a leader.”

Why I Never Call My Kids Leaders

Being a leader is not enough. How we lead determines the lasting impact of our influence. To help our kids become the leaders God designed them to be, we must be careful not to add unnecessary pressure, emphasize leaders are not just the people in charge, and help them become the best version of themselves.

Unnecessary Pressure

When you tell someone to be a leader, you may mean, “don’t follow the crowd when they do something wrong,” but the thought of “being a leader” can take own a life of its own in the mind of a child. If we do a good job affirming a child at home, then what we really want in those situations is for them to be who we know they are instead of trying to do what they think a leader would do. To me, that means, affirming their identity is more important than telling them to live up to a certain standard.

Not the Person in Charge

A leader is not just the person in charge. It is the person with influence. When kids hear “leader,” they may think they have to boss others around. If my kids become bossy and try to correct other kids, they lose influence and friends. That is why it is crucial to emphasize identity in young kids instead of leadership.

What We Do Instead

Affirming your child’s identity can help them be the leader they are meant to be among their friends because they will be leading out of their authentic selves instead of trying to enforce and live up to a certain standard. Being secure in their identity will prepare them to lead well as young adults when they can more understand the complexity of what it truly means to be a leader.

Benefits of Affirming

  1. When the child falls short, they land on who their parents (and God) say they are instead of the guilt and condemnation of not being the leader they are supposed to be.
  2. Affirming creates authentic confidence inside a child to lead out of who they are, in their own way, instead of striving to be what they think a leader should look like.
  3. When you affirm a child, you give them security instead of unintentionally inserting the idea that they have to live up to a certain standard as a leader to be good enough for your approval.
  4. When kids know who they are, they will not be afraid to be different. They are not gaining their identity from their friend group, being a part of what others are doing, or being the person in charge.

How We Affirm

Starting at about one-year-old, I created sayings that would build up each of my girls’ confidence and identity. As they grew, I would change what I said over them based on how each girl blossomed. I will share what I would tell Sophie each night as I rocked her to bed. 

“You are so sweet and so smart. So sensitive and so strong. You are my sweet, sweet, Sophie, that is so, so, sweet, and I love you so much. You are my very only special Sophie girl. There is no one else like you, and I think you are so pretty.”

There are some principles built into that saying that are important. 


We celebrate character. Accomplishments are just the product of good character. So even when we point out accomplishments, we always highlight the character that got them there.

Special to Me

Kids need to know they are precious just because they exist and are part of their family, not because they live up to a certain standard. When I say the words, “I am proud of you,” it is connected to a godly decision or character they display 90% of the time. Kids want their parents to celebrate their victories, so of course, we do that. We just don’t make that the focus.

Superficial but Necessary

You’ll also notice I tell Sophie she is pretty, but not until after building up her identity in other ways first. Little girls need to hear they are lovely, just like little boys need to hear they are handsome and strong. Again, I want my daughter to know that true beauty abides in how they treat others. I want Cinderellas in my house and not Little Mermaids. 

I finished the conversation with my neighbor by telling her that a parent who emphasizes being a leader to their young children is a good thing. If you are doing that, you are already thinking ahead of the challenges kids will face and preparing them to stand firm. 

We have just chosen a different path based on our experience and how we have seen emphasizing and even pressuring people to be a leader can cause them to lead, but not from an authentic place. I figure I would spend my kids’ childhood building up their confidence and identity. I hope that as they get older, they will lead, not because they are supposed to or have to, but because their emotional bank account is full. This way, they can help others out of the overflow of who they are, and not because they need anything from those around them. These are the types of leaders I always enjoyed following the most, anyway.

Country Music and Greeting Cards

Navigating the Love of a Father

My dad was pretty cheesy. I guess that means cheesiness is in my genes. This may also explain why I am incredibly corny myself. 

Greeting Cards

With my dad, however, this mostly showed up in two ways. The first is he never wrote a card. Instead, he preferred to give Hallmark cards with detailed cliché messages already written in. This is very much the opposite of me. I like to get a card with the shortest amount of text possible and then fill in the blank space to overflowing with a personal, heartfelt note. I never liked that he chose to give me the corny words of greeting card writers to mark birthdays and other special occasions. Why would he not take the time to write a personal message in his cards?

Country Music

The other silly thing my dad loved to do was force me to listen to the songs he enjoyed. Love songs were his favorite, but Country Music would also enter the rotation. Once, he called my brother and me into the living room to play a new song that was sweeping the dance floors of America. Then blasted Billy Ray Cyrus’s “Achy Breaky Heart” from the two giant speakers in the living room. He would also play songs like Garth Brook’s, “The Dance.” In the car, he would quiet me down to listen to “That’s My Job” by Conway Twitty when it came on the radio.

Eventually, my dad became very devout in his faith. Christian music replaced the country songs he required me to listen to with undivided attention. I am so thankful for this change in his life. Without him making the decision to follow Christ, I would not be serving God today.

Rules, Demands, and Discipline

At the same time, I still didn’t know how to deal with my feelings towards my dad. He was harsh. Often, he was mean and controlling. That softened a bit when he became more serious about his faith, but that part of him never really went away. The anger and intensity were always just beneath the surface.

Our home was strict. While full of rules and hard-work, it wasn’t absent of love and fun. We laughed with and at each other. I would never say my dad was affectionate, though. This isolated us from each other. 

Before living with my dad as a teenager, I spent my early years with my mom. My three guardian angels during that time were my mom, grandmother, and aunt. Being raised primarily by three females may be why I so strongly crave affection and expressions of feelings from those around me. That was something I didn’t really get from my dad. Mostly just rules, demands, and discipline.

Seeing Through a New Lens

One day, towards the end of my dad’s life, I noticed a book on the counter of his kitchen. It was for Adult Children of Alcoholics. It took a moment for that to sink in. Then the realization came over me like a splash of cold water. My dad was raised by an abusive alcoholic. Just because he was my dad, it didn’t mean he was over the hurts of his dad. The wounds and the gore of that kind of childhood were seeping through the cracks of the life he was trying to build, and even into his role as my father.

At that moment, I felt compassion for my dad, and I saw his shortcomings through a new lens. He couldn’t give me the affection he never received but did his best despite his own experience with his father. 

All of a sudden, those cheesy greeting cards and times he made me stop playing video games to listen to his music took on new meaning. He didn’t have the vocabulary to give me the fatherly intimacy I so desperately needed. So he used Hallmark cards and tear jerker Country Music songs to pass on the parts of himself that were important to him.

Choosing Your Compass

My dad wasn’t cheesy or superficial. He was doing the best he could with the tools he had amid the pain he didn’t know how to deal with. I am learning more and more that these are the choppy waters every parent has to navigate their love for their children through. Our ships sail in winds of legacy and pain. What we focus on becomes the compass that guides on these mysterious seas.

When it comes to my dad, I choose legacy instead of hurt; love instead of frustration. If my kids use the same measure of forgiveness towards me and my mistakes that I have used for my dad, then I want it to be as generous as possible. I think that is the only way we make it to the treasure of a lasting legacy.

Discipleship On The Go

Helping Busy Families Thread Jesus into Every Day

by: Sarah Blount

You know those memes that make light of expectations verse reality? Like the one of Ariel from The Little Mermaid? Wet Hair Expectations: She’s gloriously exiting the water, hair dramatically flowing behind her. Wet Hair Reality: Her locks, which resemble a lifeless mop, are pinned to her head and covering most of her face.

Or there’s the one of Pocahontas’ hair perfectly blowing away from her face as she paints with all the colors of the wind. That’s my windy day hair expectation, but whenever I paint with the colors of the wind, which often happens in Oklahoma where the wind literally comes sweeping down the plain, that’s not at all what my hair looks like.

And then, of course, there’s there “Pinterest Perfect” Queen Elsa Cake where Elsa looks like she stepped right out of the movie screen versus the “Pinterest Fail” Queen Elsa Cake where Elsa looks like she came straight from the prison yard, where she was working on her shoulders.

The reason we smile when we see an expectation versus reality meme is because we can all relate to them in some way or another. I bet if you were to stop and think about it for a second, you would be able to identify an area in your life where your expectations are not lining up with your current reality- only it’s not quite as funny as the Disney Princess memes. It’s actually rather frustrating. That’s where I found myself toward the end of last summer- frustrated.

In 2008 I eagerly entered into my season of motherhood. I had wanted to be a mom for as long as I could remember. I was determined to steward well every second with my new little guy. I played with him, sang to him, read to him, prayed for him, and consistently presented Jesus to him. It was pretty simple. I worked from home and had a very flexible schedule. So in-between naps, strolls around the neighborhood, re-runs of Jake and the Neverland Pirates, racing Hot-Wheels and reading all of the Elephant and Piggie books, I was doing my best to train my son up in the way he should go. I knew God had called me to make disciples of all the nations, but first, my offspring. In 2011 we added baby number 2, and baby number 3 came along in 2013.

With three little ones, I had to be more strategic when it came to intentional spiritual investments, but we got in a nice flow, and I felt like in the Christian Mom Department I was dotting every and crossing every T.

Fast forward five years and my perfectly crossed T’s and dotted I’s were nowhere to be found. I had a ten-year-old, a seven-year-old, a four-year-old, a miniature schnauzer, and a three-year-old church plant that my husband and I founded and pastor together. Gone were the days of working from home and having countless opportunities to connect with my children. I was officially entering a new season of motherhood. For the first time, the kids would all be in school while I would be at the church offices or a coffee shop writing the manuscript for my first book. After school, we had 2-hour long football practices three times a week, plus small group, guitar lessons, cheerleading, and whatever else ended up on the calendar. We were busier than we’d ever been before, and it was all wonderful except the expectations I had for what discipling my children should look like and what it actually looked like were NOT matching up.

Expectation: I sing out a run of notes a princess would use to gather her forest friends and my kids sit around the table, where we do a family devotional, pray, worship together, and everyone produces the fruit of the spirit.

Reality: 10-year-old reads four-year-old a Bible story before bed.

I was tempted to “give myself grace,” but I knew that wasn’t what this frustration called for. I didn’t want to make excuses. I would not settle into a “we’re in a busy season, and the spiritual discipleship of my children looks good on the back burner” kind of mindset. Instead, I begin to examine my expectations with God’s Word and the eyes of my understanding were enlightened.

I realized that while the discipleship model I used when the kids were tiny was effective- we had outgrown it. The training, Bible stories, worship and prayer- the consistent positive interactions between my kids and the real Jesus used to fit perfectly inside this little block of time on my calendar, but it was time to break that box wide open, toss out the previous expectations, and get excited about the new thing God was about to do.

Deuteronomy 6:7 Write these commandments that I’ve given you today on your hearts. Get them inside of you and then get them inside your children. Talk about themwherever you aresitting at home or walking in the street; talk about them from the time you get up in the morning to when you fall into bed at night.

Discipleship On The Go became my new expectation. I was so over over-complicating things and trying to find the perfect time and date to water my little sprouts with the word. Instead, I would mist them throughout the day- like the cilantro misters in the produce aisle at Target.

Wherever we are, sitting at home, driving to school (my personal favorite), around the breakfast table, or at bedtime- Discipleship is weaved into every part of our lives. It doesn’t have to look like a once a week Bible study around the table. Really, it should look more like an on-going, never-ending, discussion that you can pick up at any time. With this mindset, there’s not a day that goes by that we don’t talk to our kids about Jesus. It’s all very organic. We thread him into everything. He’s the answer to every problem. He’s the reason for every celebration. He’s our world- which makes renewing our kid’s minds with His Word a very natural part of our day.

We also gifted our two older children with daily devotionals and explained that mom and dad are not the only ones responsible for their relationship with Christ or their spiritual growth. They were mature enough to start taking ownership of their personal walk with God- and they did. What a sweet season it’s been. Seeing your children connect to God personally as they receive their own revelations about who he is is the best!

If your expectations and reality aren’t lining up, let your frustration lead you to God’s Word. Don’t settle. Don’t give yourself grace, because your grace isn’t enough.Meet with God and allow him to give you grace, reveal truth, and free you to walk in the freedom he won for you- in parenting, in marriage, in ministry, in your finances- in LIFE.

Here we are a few months away from the end of the school year, and because I brought my expectation vs. reality frustration to the Lord I not only had an impactful year training my children and leading them toward Christ, but I also produced a resource to help families all over the world do the same. If you’re a parent who is passionate about the discipleship of your children but struggles to find the time, check out my Discipleship On The Go Cards and start looking to weave Jesus into the everyday moments.

Remember, His burden is light! Including the burden to train your one-of-a-kind kiddoes!

Click here to shop Discipleship On the God at Sarah’s site.

Sarah has devoted her life to sharing the story of God’s wonderful goodness. After delivering her son Felix, stillborn, in 2012, she started her blog, 10K Reasons, and God birthed in her a passion for communicating His Word. She has helped many women who have lost babies find comfort in choosing gratitude over grief. In September of 2015, Sarah and her husband, Josh, stepped out in faith, moved to a new land, and pioneered New Song Church in Oklahoma City where they co-pastor and desire to see people come to personally know God. Sarah is also the founder of HIS, a ministry designed for women who prize being found in Christ. Sarah and Josh have been married for sixteen years and have three larger-than-life children—Gus, Beau, and Sunny. Sarah’s first book “Fearless Parenting, Raising Godly Kids in an Ungodly World” will be published in the fall of 2019.