Monthly Archives: September 2016

The Leader in Me

September is back-to-school month. The National Family Preservation Network (NFPN) believes that strong families build strong schools. But is the opposite also true? Can strong schools build strong families?

An elementary school principal in Raleigh, NC, decided to build a strong school. She asked teachers, parents, and local employers what they wanted from a school. The teachers wanted to be proud of their school, use their talents, feel like they made a difference, and teach self-motivated students. Parents wanted their children to make responsible decisions, use their time well, and grow up to make positive contributions to society. Employers wanted employees to have a strong work ethic, self-motivation, and communication skills. What everyone wanted essentially boiled down to “leadership” and so The Leader in Me was born.

Franklin Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People were adapted to become The 7 Habits of Happy Kids (with following condensed explanation in kid language):
1) Be Proactive = You’re in Charge. I am a responsible person. I take initiative. I choose my actions, attitudes, and moods.
2) Begin with the End in Mind = Have a Plan. I plan ahead and set goals. I am an important part of my classroom and contribute to my school’s mission and vision.
3) Put First Things First = Work First, Then Play. I spend my times on things that are most important. I am disciplined and organized.
4) Think Win-Win = Everyone Can Win. I balance courage for getting what I want with consideration for what others want.
5) Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood = Listen Before You Talk. I listen to other people’s ideas and feelings. I listen to others without interrupting.
6) Synergize = Together is Better. I seek out other people’s ideas to solve problems because I know that by teaming with others we can create better solutions than anyone of us can alone. I am humble.
7) Sharpen the Saw = Balance Feels Best. I take care of my body by eating right, exercising, and getting sleep.

Do these 7 Habits build strong families? A boy diagnosed with a cognitive delay and oppositional defiance enrolled in a school with The Leader in Me program. Within days his father noticed a change in his son. Then his son started teaching the habits to his father and other family members. When the father attended a parent night, he stated that what the school was teaching students had changed his life. And then the father revealed that he had been involved with drugs, was arrested, and fled while awaiting a court hearing. After learning from his son about taking responsibility, the father decided to turn himself in. He said, “This boy’s my hero.” The school principal sent the judge a letter about the father’s relationship with his son. The judge decided not to impose jail time in order to allow the father to remain with his son and to continue to do things to make a difference in the community. That sounds a lot like strong schools building strong families!

The Leader in Me has been implemented in over 3,000 schools in all states and 50 countries. Panda Express frequently funds these programs. For more information, visit

Posted by Priscilla Martens, NFPN Executive Director