Parenting Resources

Teaching Children to Take Initiative


The ability and willingness to take initiative contributes to the success of children and adults – even more than intelligence.

Some research states that intelligence accounts for less than 25% of life success, while personal character traits such as initiative are the most important determinant of achievement. Articles in business journals even recognize the importance of initiative, as seen in the Forbes March 15, 2016 article by Maren Hogan entitled, “How Leaders Can Encourage Even The Busiest Employees To Take Initiative.”

So – how can parents instill this important character in their children?

It should be easy – because all infants and toddlers intuitively take initiative as they tackle the tasks of comforting themselves, learning to feed themselves, practicing crawling, walking, climbing, and talking. Unfortunately, however, many of our parenting approaches actually discourage our children from developing and enhancing their abilities to take responsibility and demonstrate initiative. For example, “hovering” and protecting children too much can stifle these innate traits.

The overriding concept is this:

  • allow your children to do tasks for themselves,
  • provide a supportive environment that allows for failure, and
  • role model this trait yourself.

Remember – boredom is a wonderful opportunity for children to learn many important character traits, especially as they take initiative to alleviate their boredom. Most often, you are not responsible for their happiness.

We hope the suggested concepts in the pages listed below will encourage you to provide your children and adolescents with opportunities to develop this important character trait. Initiative is dependent upon developing internal rewards (pride of accomplishment, creativity) rather than external rewards (money, grades), so help your child see the benefits of their work and productivity.