“I believe that every child is capable of growing into a leader. Leadership looks different for everyone.” These words from educator and author, Todd Nesloney, are the foundation for his encouragement and advice to parents in this podcast. Things we as caretakers should and should not do are highlighted.
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PODCAST TRANSCRIPTSteve [Intro]: 00:00 Hello, and welcome to the parents as learning coaches edition of the Steve Barkley Ponders Out Loud podcast. Parents and caregivers play many different roles, at times, even somewhat conflicting roles as they support children’s development. The pandemic has shown a light on the importance of parents supporting learners. In this podcast, I’ll look to share my experiences as a teacher, educator, parent, grandparent, and continuous learner that can support your coaching efforts.
Steve: 00:32 Young people building leadership skills. Today, I’m pleased to be joined by Todd Nesloney, an experienced educator and the author of a book for educators and parents titled, “When Kids Lead.” He’s also the author of a children’s book titled, “Spruce and Lucy,” and that book promotes an understanding that everyone has something to offer to the world around them. Welcome Todd.
Todd: 01:03 Hey, thank you so much for having me here. I’m thrilled to be with you.
Steve: 01:06 Great. I’m glad that you’ve got an opportunity to share some of your thinking with parents here. When I was looking at your your website, I found this statement that I want to read and have you explore it a little bit with parents. And the statement was, “I believe that every child is capable of growing into a leader. Leadership looks different for every one of us and for students.”
Todd: 01:38 You know, I truly believe that with my whole heart. I think that every single person on this earth has leadership qualities in them and is a leader. Many of us don’t view ourselves as leader. We equate that with a specific title or that you have to be the loudest person in the room, you’ve got to be outgoing, you have to have a great communication skills. And it’s like, there are so many definitions of a leader that every one of us fits that criteria. We just often struggle with seeing it in ourselves. And so when I think of kids being a leader, I think that every single one of them has that untapped potential inside of them and they may be a leader in the way that they have a conversation with someone. They may be a leader in the way that they communicate in writing. They may be a leader in the way they organize behind the scenes where nobody even sees them. We need all of those leaders and kids need to be able to know that even though they may not have great communication skills, that doesn’t mean they can’t be a leader. And so we’ve got to change this antiquated definition of what a leader is. And even our most introverted students, our most shy and insecure students, they need to be able to see that there’s leadership positions for them too.
Steve: 02:58 I’m trying to figure out the definition of leadership in the way that you use it. And the first phrase that’s coming to me is causing something to get done or causing something to happen. You want to explore that further and dress it up?
Todd: 03:16 You know, I think for me, when I think of leadership, to me, it’s about amplifying the strengths in everyone on the team. And if everybody’s strengths are amplified, they will lead in their area and they will lead well, where they are clearly the person meant to do that. I think we miss leadership opportunities when we’re not looking at their strengths. We’re just saying, oh, we need somebody to do this. All the rest of you, you don’t really matter. You’re just kids in a line, get in line into your work. But this kid, he’s the big deal. He can get up there and convince everybody to do it. And it’s like, no, we need to find the strengths in everybody and allow them to believe in their strengths as well.
Steve: 03:54 My strengths contributed to the group caused everyone to advance, whatever that strength may have been. Whether it was the onstage strength or the backstage strength. I’m a leader because my strength caused the group to advance.
Todd: 04:13 That’s the way I view it. Yes.
Steve: 04:14 Okay. That’s great. I’m wondering if there’s some specific roles that you see parents playing in encouraging and supporting leadership with their children.
Todd: 04:29 Yeah. You know, when we wrote, “When Kids Lead” after it came out, Adam and I did a couple of interviews with kids from across the world who were doing fantastic things. We interviewed a 10 year old who started her own charity when she was nine years old about getting art supplies in the hands of kids and adults who couldn’t find them. We talked to a young girl who had started her own bakery business online for treats, for dogs and their owners where the dogs could have a dog treat, but the owner could have a magic treat that was meant for humans. And she now has her own storefront at 16 years old. Or even the kid who wrote the foreword for our book. Yes, w had a teenager write the foreword for our book because he started his own charity about getting foods in the hands of those who need it at six years old.
Todd: 05:20 And he has been featured on CNN and the today show and the Disney channel and all these amazing things. But no matter what kids we talk to, we always ask, you know, how did you get here? Was there an adult that believed in you? And every one of them has this confidence built up in them that they tell you is a direct result of the adults in their life. Not shutting them down, not telling them, “oh, you’re too young.” Or, you know, “you don’t even know where to begin.” “We don’t know how to do that.” When the reality is, you know, when – I remember the conversation with a young lady who started her dog and people treat bakery and when she told us she opened her own storefront. She said, you know, my mom never said you can’t do this.
Todd: 06:09 She said, if this is that important to you, you’re going to put the effort in. I’m not going to do all the work for you. If this is your dream, you’re going to need to see that it’s hard work to achieve a dream, but I’m going to be here telling you, you’ve got this. You can do this. How can I help? And she said, you know, I can’t sign a contract to open my own storefront. The legal requirements don’t allow me to, but my mom put her name on the contract because she believed in my dream. Or when I think of Chelsea, my little 10 year old friend who started Chelsea’s charity and was recently featured by CNN as one of the kid game changers, and she works to get art supplies in the hands of kids and adults who can’t afford it.
Todd: 06:52 And she said, you know, my mom has always said, she said, even when I came to her with the idea and said, mom, it broke my heart when I saw how much I loved art and I found out they were kids who had not even a crayon at home. And so for her Christmas that year, she told her family, I don’t want Christmas gifts. I want you to buy art supplies that I can give to others. And our family didn’t say, oh, that’s silly. Like, why are you doing that? You’re nine years old. You don’t need to worry about that. No, they said, if this is important to you, we’ve got you. We’re going to support you. Let’s see what we can do to make this happen. And again, just like the other young lady, she said, they told me I had to do the work.
Todd: 07:31 I package all this stuff. I go and do the visits. My mom doesn’t drop it off. I have to go. She drives me there, but I am the one that has to do the talking. And I think that’s where parents can support is, don’t take over your child’s dream, but encourage them, let them know, be honest. It’s going to be hard work. There are parts of their dream that they will not be able to accomplish quickly, but do it in a way where it’s like, I’ve got you. Like, if this is what you want to do, let’s go, let’s make this happen because you never know. They may design the next thing that changes the world. And so we’ve got to encourage our kids and let them see that their dreams aren’t crazy if they’re willing to put in the work to try to make it happen.
Steve: 08:18 I think I’m hearing listening first of all, big.
Todd: 08:21 Yes.
Steve: 08:21 And then I guess there’s a parent risk that goes with letting your kid take the risk.
Todd: 08:28 There is.
Steve: 08:29 If I’m too cautious of, I can’t let my child fail with this, then I end up stepping in and taking over.
Todd: 08:38 I think as a parent too, you need to be ready when that dream doesn’t come to fruition. Because even as an adult, there are still things that I’m trying to make happen that I’m like, well, that bombed, okay. Trying to put that in a drawer somewhere and try something new. And our kids need to have that built into them. And they don’t always have the emotional capabilities to handle failure right away. But that’s where you, as the parent get to come in and say, you know what, it’s okay if it didn’t work out right now. Maybe now’s not the right time. Or maybe we can alter it or change the way we do things, but, you know, and share your own journeys as parents let your kids know, Hey, you know, I tried this idea last week and it didn’t work. So just know there are going to be dreams that we have that no matter how much work we put into our dream, it may not succeed, but that’s okay because we learn things along the way. Now don’t tell your kids, they may not reach their dream right away. You know, that’s a mood killer to start the conversation with that. But when you notice that it’s getting to a point where things aren’t progressing, share a very personal story, be vulnerable, let your kids see your own experiences to let them see that, use it as a growth opportunity to see what can we learn from this opportunity, this instance,
Steve: 09:57 I’m wondering if there’s anything you’d label as a common mistake that parents or in my case, grandparents might make in blocking the support that kids need for leadership.
Todd: 10:16 You know, I think honestly, one of the biggest mistakes that we as adults make when it comes to working with kids is we don’t want them to hurt because we care about them. So we end up doing far more than we need to do and it doesn’t feel as much theirs as it now feels ours. And it’s not meant to be our dream. It’s their dream. They need to have ownership. They need to feel the complete joy of I did this, or they need to feel the heartbreak of that didn’t work. How do I move forward? When we can teach that resiliency and that ownership in our kids, and if we, as adults step back, and that is so hard for us to do, because none of us want to see our kids hurt. None of us want to see them fail. We don’t want them to cry. We just want them to see feel the happiness and the excitement. They’re kids. And yes, that’s true, they should feel that, but they also need – if we let them have those moments where they fall on their face, but we’re there to walk with them through it, we build them up to be better adults down the road.
Steve: 11:22 Great. Great. Thanks. Todd, I’m wondering if you’d share with people, resources that you’d have available that parents might reach out to and how they could find those.
Todd: 11:34 Yeah. So they can check out my website, toddnesloney.com. I’ve got videos on there, blog posts, my books. I’ve got two courses that I have about building culture up. And so I’ve got lots of ways to do that and also links to all my social media platforms, where anybody can connect with me and reach out for more ideas.
Steve: 11:53 Terrific. Well, we’ll be sure to put your the link to your site in the lead-in to this to this podcast so folks can find it. Thanks so much for sharing your thinking with us.
Todd: 12:04 Thanks for having me.
Steve [Outro]: 12:06 Thank you for listening. You can subscribe to Steve Barkley Ponders Out Loud on iTunes and Podbean. And please remember to rate and review us on iTunes. I also want to hear what you’re pondering. You can find me on Twitter @stevebarkley, or send me your questions and find my videos and blogs at barkleypd.com.