Hunting can be a great tool for a leadership development program for kids. Hunting is authentic, builds relationships, and teaches character traits like patience, discipline, respect, and self control. Hunting is not for adults only. Hunting provides a hands-on, active learning environment where mature children can participate and develop leadership skills they can use as adults.
Don’t be frightened by firearms. Have a deep respect of them; they are weapons. Be knowledgeable about them and learn to operate them safely. How you handle a firearm that can change a life forever is probably how you also handle power in other areas of your life. How do you handle power at work? at home? in public? Do you misuse power at the expense of others? Don’t find out how to respect power as an adult. Teaching respect for life and how to handle a weapon in a mature way sets a foundation to how one should also handle power in other areas life. Use this opportunity at an age appropriate level with your kids to teach them these basic life skills of patience, discipline, respect, and self control. If they learn to operate a firearm with these elements, they will have them in their leadership toolbox for the future.
I want to highlight a few ways to integrate hunting into a leadership development program for kids. My children are too young to handle firearms themselves. But that doesn’t mean I can’t start to develop a passion for hunting and a respect for guns. Regardless of your children’s ages, make sure the experience is interactive and let them drive some of the agenda. My son was just telling me how much fun he had over a year ago when a pheasant ran into some grass and we had to kick around to find it. Play is very important to kids. His favorite part of the day was watching a bird run into some grass and he got to chase it. That is ok. It is how he identified his role in the event. He is taking ownership by doing this and as he grows more, more responsibility can be given to him. Take these moments to teach them respect for adults, for nature, and for themselves.
Parent’s, don’t forget what the goal is. When you raise children, you are raising leaders. While not every child will grow up to be an executive (this isn’t the goal anyway), every child will grow up to lead in at least some areas of their lives. We can expect to get out of our children what we put in. That’s why we owe them every opportunity to drive their development in the best way we can.
Hunting with your kids is one of those special activities that only we as parents can do. It needs to be one on one, and it won’t and can’t be taught by anyone else but us. There is no alternative leadership development program for kids where you can play, bond, and work so closely.
Let your kids play. Then develop that play into effective hunting. Gradually give them the tools to make the hunting decisions and soon you will have just taught them how to handle themselves leading a group (a group with deadly weapons none the less – make sure to keep it age and maturity appropriate too) and you taught yourself how to pass the baton.
When your children are young, talk about what you will be doing with them before hand. It is essential for children to be confident that you, as their parent will provide a safe place for them. This will also model how they should lead in the future.
Regardless of their age, I always start with gun safety. You can’t cover this too many times. I will let my kids touch the guns (unloaded and following all the gun-safety rules of course). Then I introduce other new things in a safe, controlled environment. For example, I let the kids play with the dogs before hand. Once the hunt begins, those dogs change from playmate to hunter. Use this as a learning example for your kids so they understand that the dog is not there to play with him or her while you are out in the field. It teaches about boundaries, roles and teamwork.
Game farms are a way to guarantee some action when hunting with kids. There are two great ways to ruin this opportunity. The worst thing to do is to make a bunch of rules that make this an adult only event with kids that are tagging along. The other way is to put in a bunch of work and see nothing. Game farms allow for a little bit of play, and an almost guaranteed sighting of birds.
Hunting is a values-based sport. Be purposeful about it. Make sure your time with your children is well spent. Simply bonding with your children is one of the greatest leadership gifts you can offer them. But hunting is more than just bonding. It’s about developing value systems. Time hunting is an opportunity to build your relationships and teach about the deeper things in life. Kids suck up everything you tell them when they are young and they know you are giving them special attention and time. This is something you can’t fake.
Take time out to do some teaching. The outdoors provides a plethora of learning opportunities. Whatever the outdoors offers you, use it to teach. It may be as simple as weather and wildlife, or it might just be an opportunity to talk about the deeper things in life. Awesome things in nature reflect the awesomeness of our God, for it is His creation.
Keep the day fun but remember your goal: To develop your children into leaders. I have a masters degree in Organizational Leadership and in my opinion, the best leadership development programs for kids have parents at their core. You want your kids to be authentic, affective adults. Start by building authentic relationships with them as children.