My nine-year-old daughter made a video recently about a service project of sorts that she’d been working on one weekend.  She was eager to share what she’d learned.

Sophie is that rare bird who loves public speaking.  If there is an offer of a little time on a microphone, hers will be the first arm raised high in the air. Her eyes visibly twinkle when a thin-wire microphone is curved over her ear and across her little rosy cheek. I was there when she was born and still sometimes wonder from whence this precious creature came.

“Are you sure we should share my video?” she asked. “Because more people may decide to do this once they know how easy it is.”

“Easy.” God bless this child and protect her spirit that finds seeking out and listening to her neighbors about their hopes, dreams, and concerns an easy and natural thing to do.  She has no idea that public speaking strikes fear in most people.

I don’t know of any universal recipe for growing leaders, but I do believe an essential ingredient to be learning-by-doing.    

When our four-year-old proudly showed me a ‘council meeting’ assembled of pony, puppy, princess, and barnyard figurines, my heart swelled (and chuckled).  What a delight to see Etta place herself among those ‘leader’ figurines as they negotiated something about competing food and water rights in the barn yard.

When big sister was invited to recite the nativity scriptures in the church Christmas festival, her eyes lit up and an overloaded calendar had no choice but to make room for another opportunity for Sophie to grow in faith, courage, and poise.  As Sophie practiced the verses around the house, little Etta started chiming in with them too.

Learn, children, then lead.

Like the kids of many small business owners we know, our girls are regular fixtures in our office. They’re known to conduct everything from ‘school’ in our conference room to ‘research and development’ experiments yielding impressive breakthroughs in the science of paperclip-and-tape roofing systems.

You didn’t hear it from me, but the password to the conference doors is usually “onomatopoeia” and not only does entry require knowing the password, it also requires an example of the password—their own version of a two-factor authentication process.

This fall the girls holed up in top-secret conference-room session, putting their little legalish minds together to develop a hardnosed contract regarding when and where they hoped we could have dinner.

The contract looked a little suspicious to mom’s trained eye, on account of how the material terms were taped to the face of the document underneath the “I, Shelby, promise to” section.

Nevertheless, “I, Shelby,” gave them the benefit of the doubt, and signed a pledge to take them to dinner at a local establishment.

But then the contract showed up minutes later with a fresh round of giggles and a freshly-inked promise of dessert taped in place of the original terms.  

Back to the conference room we three went (a “hiss,” “chirp,” and “meow” granting us access). 

We had us a nice chat about improper alteration of documents after signing.

And although “I, Shelby,” was regrettably forced to suspend them from the practice of law for the remainder of the day, we were still able to mediate a mutually-agreeable dinner settlement.

What joy to raise these girls—endless negotiators, extravagant office supply repurposers, complex password generators, fearless affinity for microphones, and all.

Learn, children, and lead on.



Shelby Slawson - attorney, mom, writer, and ever-aspiring trophy wife - is a member of the E-T’s community columnists. She can be reached at