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Teaching children to take initiative

Some children seek challenges and take initiative, whereas other kids can have difficulties to set goals and take action. In this post I will discuss a scientific article about differences in children’s personal initiative. I will provide research-based insights and tips about the importance of taking initiative for children’s wellbeing and positive development.

 Taking initiative

Taking initiative consists of multiple aspects:

  • Self-starting, for example searching independently for new tasks
  • Proactive, including an active approach of problems
  • Being persistent when pursuing a goal

 Design of the study

This study focused on the development of personal initiative during childhood and the effects of personal initiative on children’s socio-emotional and academic development. The authors used data from children and early adolescents and their parents and teachers. They followed the children over a time period of 2 years to examine the differences in the development of children’s levels of personal initiative.

 Differences in taking initiative

In short, the study found that:

  • Children differed in their development of personal initiative over time. For example, the level of personal initiative increased in many children over a time period of 2 years. However, for some children, the level of personal initiative remained stable.
  • Positive parenting (including parental support and involvement) had a positive effect on children’s development of personal initiative.
  • Children who scored higher on personal initiative had less emotional and behavioral problems.
  • Higher levels of personal initiative were related to higher levels of prosocial behavior and academic abilities.

Scientific Parenting Tips Tips

  • Being able to take initiative is important for children’s wellbeing and positive development. Help children learn to solve their problems and allow them to fail.
  • Encourage children to make their own decisions, for example when choosing activities for themselves. Stimulate self-exploration.
  • Positive parenting may help your child to develop personal initiative. For example, positive parenting includes providing your child with love and support and using appropriate discipline.

More Information Scientific Parenting Tips More information

Warner, G. J., Lensing, J. N., & Fay, D. (2017). Personal initiative: Developmental predictors and positive outcomes from childhood to early adolescence. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 52, 114-125.

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