Maren Schmidt, M. Ed.

Maren Schmidt, M. Ed.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Leaders Take Risks

Our initial responsibility as leaders, no matter what field we are in, is to first do no harm. If we are going to be problem solvers and remove obstacles to a child’s development, we have to take risks. Change always involves the danger that what we do may not work, but change also creates the opportunity that our modifications may work better than we imagined. Our risk taking is calculated so that we give up something good to get something better.

The knowledge, skills and attitudes of a leader become critical as we endeavor to make changes. Have we listened carefully to those around us to truly understand needs and requests? Do we have the ability to respond to those needs? Can we take the responsibility? Can we bring enthusiasm and passion to our tasks? Do we have a clear vision in order to empower others to see their worth and potential?

We have three basic ways to affect change: We can change our attitude about a situation. We can change the rules that govern the situation. We can change the environment.

Change our attitude. Martin and Lela were frustrated that their four-year-old, Olivia, would not settle down for a 7:30 bedtime. Until after 9:30 every evening Olivia was up for a drink of water, jumping on the bed, surfing down the stairs on her stomach, and various other non-sleeping activities. Using a leadership idea of “ask more, talk less,” Martin and Lela decided to ask Olivia why she couldn’t get to sleep and how they might help her. Much to their surprise, Olivia suggested that they take a walk after dinner every night so Olivia could exercise. A thirty-minute walk around the neighborhood with flashlights in the cold seemed to be the antidote for their sleeping pill. Martin and Lela changed their attitude about what bedtime should look like. Risking what might happen if they let Olivia set the routine, created a situation that was a win/win. Olivia got tired enough to go to sleep. Lela and Martin got some exercise and energy for rest of their evening.

Change the rules. Pam and Pat, dealing with much the same situation with their four-year-old, Logan, took another tactic. After getting input from Logan, they decided to change his bedtime routine. Logan could turn off his new bedside lamp with the clap of his hands, empowering him to have more control over when he went to sleep. After a nighttime routine of brushing teeth, pajamas, story and prayers, Logan agreed to not get up from bed, but would read and listen to music until he was ready to sleep. Working with Logan to find a solution to bedtime problems, created new expectations. A clap of the hands changed bedtime for the better.

Change the environment. Jeff and Julie were getting more ragged every day as their sleep was disrupted by their daughter Morgan’s 2 am visits. Tucking Morgan into her own bed didn’t help her get back to sleep. Nobody got any sleep if Morgan got into bed with Jeff and Julie. In a parenting magazine, Julie came across the idea of putting a sleeping bag at the foot of their bed for Morgan. Morgan agreed to the idea of using the sleeping bag if she got up in the middle of the night. After a few more days of investigations, Jeff discovered that the air conditioner came on around 2 am each morning and blew cold air on a coverless Morgan. Moving Morgan’s bed and changing the thermostat to come on at a later time fixed Morgan nocturnal roaming.

Leadership requires that we take risks by changing our attitude, changing our rules, and changing our environment to help make life better for those around us--ourselves included.

Next week: Leaders Are Committed

About Kids Talk™
Kids Talk™ is an award-winning newspaper column dealing with early childhood development issues written by Maren Stark Schmidt. Contact her via e-mail at maren@kidstalknews.com. Read column archives at www.KidsTalkNews.com. 

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About Maren Schmidt
Maren SchmidtMaren Schmidt founded a Montessori school and holds a Masters of Education from Loyola College in Maryland.

She has over 25 years experience working with children and holds teaching credentials from the Association Montessori Internationale. She is author of Building Cathedrals Not Walls: Essays for Parents and Teachers as well as Understanding Montessori: A Guide for Parents.
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