Three Things I’m Grateful My Parents Invested in As a Kid

How can we guide the next generation of kids to become competent leaders?

I often think about how we can guide the next generation of kids to become competent leaders. I believe we often underestimate the positive impact some of the most simple things have on the development of kids. And sometimes, we often put too much value in things that may not benefit, or perhaps, hinder the development of kids because we are too caught up on how we are perceived by the world.

In order to answer this question, I had to look at my own experiences as a kid that I believe played a critical part in the process towards who I am as a leader today. Though I understand that these things come from a place of privilege, I also know that most people who can read this article have the ability to do the same and play that critical part for themselves or their kids’ future.

1. Summer Camp

My mother told me that some parents questioned her decision to let me stay at an overnight camp, especially because I was a girl. She had responses of, “There’s no way I’d let my children, let alone my daughter, stay at an overnight camp like that.” Although I understand the resistance, I also believe that decisions should not be made out of a place of fear, especially when that fear comes from when your preconceived notions have been questioned, and not logical reason.

When I say camp, I mean a real one. I don’t mean the one where kids go to only take selfies and sleep in 5-star rated rooms. I mean the one where you’re completely disconnected from all forms of technology and distractions, connected to nature and people, constantly challenging yourself and encouraged to critically think about what impact you want to have on this world.

Even though I didn’t know it at the time, going to summer camp taught me how to be more self-aware, which is why I’m able to articulate my thoughts and ideas so clearly in this article. According to a study, going to summer camp increases your emotional intelligence, resilience, environmental awareness, and personal development. No doubt, during these times, you learn the real value of leadership.

2. Sports

As a kid and up till now, I’ve always been active in sports. I played a lot of soccer, basketball, and often times ran track.

We all know the importance of being physically active, but the benefits of sports go far beyond the physical realm. Engaging in sports has shown to positively foster cognitive and emotional functions in children. Children engaged in sports have high levels of executive function development such as motivation, self-control, and the ability to set goals.

Depending on which sport you’re in, you learn teamwork, communication, decision-making, your role within the team, sportsmanship, and discipline. You learn to face your fear of failure as a challenge to pursue rather than a setback. Sports help build the foundation for all the vital skills that a kid will need to foster as a leader when they grow older.

3. Music

Learning a musical instrument is such a challenging yet rewarding feeling. I played the trumpet at school while being part of the band but mostly enjoyed practicing piano.

There is already a lot of scientific backed evidence that shows learning a musical instrument activates areas of a child’s psychological development. In fact, studies have shown that children’s brains develop faster with music training.

Music facilitates a child’s development through intellect, memory, motor-control, emotional regulation, language, spatial reasoning, and literacy. Music improves the mind-body coordination and allows a child to practice self-expression in a healthy way. Overall, these skills prepare children for effective learning.

It’s all about neuroplasticity

I highlight these areas of my life because early childhood is one of the most critical times. Children are wired to learn, and the things that they are engaged in will shape their brain and strengthen neural connections for later parts in life.

It’s understandable that as a parent you’d want to shield your kids away from all things harmful and damaging. However, I’d like to encourage everyone, parent or not, to question whether their tendency to divert away from things come from a place of reason or a previously held belief of what they “should” or “should not” do. It’s vital to have exposure — exposure to places, people, environments, activities, and experiences.

Guiding a new generation comes with its differences. I’m not a parent, but I think that one of the reasons parents can have it hard is because their beliefs are constantly being questioned. The hard part is distinguishing which ones to be open to and which ones could be damaging.

With that being said, I also understand that my knowledge of fostering the value of leadership in children is limited to what I’ve experienced. So I’d like to know, what are some things you’re grateful your parents invested in that played a critical part of your leadership qualities?

Genetics and Neuroscience student at the University of Toronto writing to drive positive change.

Genetics and Neuroscience student at the University of Toronto writing to drive positive change.