Replace Yourself – Let Children Lead Out

by Mary Ann on May 22, 2010

Any time we can encourage creative exploration we are on the path to leadership education. Even a child’s party is a perfect venue for implementing leadership education. In that model parents inspire their children to learn and do new things. The goal is for children to master skills that will help them in life and help them serve others.

My mom gave me some amazing parties. I recall in my 7th grade year I had a taffy party. I had seven or eight friends over and my mom taught us to make pulled taffy. It actually turned out. It was so much fun. We had a really good time and each girl had a gift, a plate of taffy, to take home.

I followed my mom’s footsteps. I gave my kids great parties. One year we had a dress up party. I collected dress ups from thrift stores for a few weeks prior. When the children arrived they all choose bits and pieces of clothing and put an outfit together. Then we had a wonderful parade all around the block. We ended with a few games and treats.

Another time we made sugar cookies from scratch and frosted and then decorated them with small candies, raisins, etc. Then they were packed into small boxes to be taken home.

When my youngest daughter was turning eleven we had a formal “tea” party. The guests came in their best dresses and were served by some mom’s who had been enlisted to help.  The ice cream was cut into slices and then a tea pot cookie cutter was used to make a tea pot slice of ice cream. Each girl had her own miniature cake. They were encouraged to “converse”. They got the hang of it and soon there was an ample amount of giggling and chatting going on in the living room. Each girl went home with a miniature tea set purchased at the dollar store. Kate said this was her favorite party.

One year my son had a “relay” party. All the activities were relay games. We found lots of ideas for relays by asking his grandparents about games they remembered, games I recalled from my school days and books from the library.

These were all wonderful times for the children who attended. However, remember I said that my mom gave great parties and then I followed in her foot steps. None of the parties I planned would have been too hard for one of my children to plan. What I really wanted was for them to learn adult skills and become independent. Allowing them to have the experience of planning and implementing the plan would have gone a long way in that direction. Think of all the learning that could go on if the child and parent worked together on a project like a party.

Food is planned and a grocery list is written and food stuffs purchased; then the food has to be prepared and eventually served. There is an invitation list to be made and invitations to write out (the computer is a wonderful tool but can steal opportunities from a child to learn to write). A theme needs to be decided on and then how to carry out the theme and then games and activities are chosen that follow the theme.

The ultimate goal of parties should be to help our children learn how to play, socialize and create with their peers and other adults; to celebrate together. We eventually want them to plan and execute their own social functions. I once read that the greatest teachers replace themselves. We should want to replace ourselves. That is the Thomas Jefferson model, that children feel courageous and excited to venture out and learn new things and then implement that newly gained knowledge to bring joy to others and serve in some way.

That is the great benefit of this type of home made party. You allow your children to practice creating and thinking along with you. They don’t need to have it created for them via a DVD or other premade outlet. Eventually they take over and do it for themselves. Anytime that we can foster the skills of creation, thinking and problem solving we are helping our children and youth on the path to leadership.

One of the reasons that we frequently “do” things for our children is that we want to guarantee the outcome. We want it to be a certain way, our way. We want it to be successful, adult-like, so to speak. Remember that I have mentioned before that much of what we do in the guise of helping our children is really about us not them. That is a tough habit to break.

Take the time to recall all of the parties that were special to you. Ask your husband about the parties he remembers. Ask your mom and dad, grandma and grandpa. Then write their ideas down. Let a son or daughter plan a party just for the fun of it. They can invite a few other families or friends to attend.  Go over the list of possible party ideas with them. Let them choose one or come up with one of their own. Then teach them how to execute it.

Tip: One of the best places to find party ideas is in outdated library books on parties. You can find them at thrift stores and used book stores. They are worth the few cents they cost to buy.

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