Saturday, May 05, 2007

Leadership and the At-Risk child

A mother wrote me recently, to discuss her 12 year old son. The problem is that she is afraid her son is “Just Like His Father.” She is separated from the father who dominated and psychologically abused her for many years. Her son witnessed his father’s disrespectful attitude and has adopted many of the same behaviors.

The problem this mother (and many other mothers) have is that after years of subjugation, she is finding it very difficult to be assertive. Her son needs firm limits and guidance, but his constant challenge to her authority is very stressful for her.

It helps to understand why children challenge authority and why this challenge is physically so stressful. There exists within us all a drive for social dominance. This drive is similar to the drive for sex and the drive to eat. It creates a compulsion to do certain behaviors. The drive for social dominance creates a compulsion to be in control.

Children who are impulsive and have poor impulse control, have difficulty managing all their drives and emotions. The social dominance drive is no exception. Parents can help domineering children (also called strong willed children)by educating them about the social dominance drive. Although we all have this push from within us, we don’t have to be controlled by this or any drive/emotion. We can make choices about our behavior. To educated your child I highly recommend you watch together Animal Planet’s The Most Extreme Leaders Tuesday May 8th follow this link for times.

The most constructive outlet for the social dominance drive is leadership. To be a good leader in our species requires impulse control and empathy. Since many kids want to be leaders but lack these two skills, they often become physically or verbally aggressive to dominate by force. We need to teach our kids that this is neither effective nor acceptable leadership. Kids need social skills in order to lead, they have to be taught these skills.

Mothers also need leadership skills. In July, we will be releasing The Single Mother’s Leadership Guide. Email Dr. Leedom to preorder the book.

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