Teaching Your Children to Live with Purpose
“Like many other values children get from us, compassion is more likely to be caught than taught.” – Mister Rogers
If there is one thing I am coming to believe more and more, it is that there is no such thing as work-life balance. Our passion and personality don’t just end (or begin) the moment we step through the office door. How we live at home and how we live at work create the totality of who we are as people – as a friend, a colleague, a spouse, a parent.
As we begin to appreciate how diversity and inclusion create more dynamic, higher-functioning teams – and as we see the world shifting to a mindset of sustainability – purpose is becoming more relevant both at home and at work. The question is: how do we teach our children to live with purpose?
As a member of adidas Canada’s social purpose community, an avid volunteer and, most importantly, a mom, I can’t help but reflect on some of the ways I hope to instill a purpose-driven mentality in my six-and nine-year-old kids.
“Are you negative? Do you point out other people’s flaws? Do you sit in judgement? Or do you speak from a place of genuine care and concern for those around you?”
While I’m sure we all want to speak compassionately to our children, it is equally important that we speak compassionately around our children. In the same way that racism and prejudice are often learned around the dinner table, we as parents have an opportunity to shape how our children will see the world simply with the words we use.
When we talk about the new neighbors, our boss, or the politicians we see on tv, our children are listening. Are you negative? Do you point out other people’s flaws? Do you sit in judgement? Or do you speak from a place of genuine care and concern for those around you? We can teach our children compassion just with the words we use when they are around.
Involve them in your mission
Children learn more from doing than by watching. Include them in fundraising, or in a walk or run that is raising awareness for a cause that is close to home. Bring them to a foodbank, or a tree planting day, or a community cleanup. On Earth Day, recruit them to help you turn off all the lights, and talk about how much energy they are saving.
Help them to see that there are different ways to be purposeful. There are large community movements that they can contribute to, but there are also micro-actions they can take that can have a big impact, such as remembering to turn off their bedroom light every day when they leave for school. Be sure that if you feel passionately about a social cause, you give them the opportunity to participate in it as much as possible. I have brought my children to walks for autism awareness, involved them in the Terry Fox run for cancer, and I volunteer leading a physical activity program at their school to (hopefully) spark a lifelong love of fitness.
Don’t be afraid to have lively debates
My parents rarely argued in front of my sister and I and we grew up believing that disagreements and contrary opinions were a negative. It is important that you are able to have open dialogue at home about different news items, or things you feel strongly about, especially if you disagree with others about them.
Learning to listen respectfully to others’ opinions, to consider them, and to be able to state and debate your own beliefs is an important life skill. When it comes to topics we are passionate about, we need to have the tools to explain why we feel a certain way, and what we feel we can do about it. I want my children to be able to join a movement, or to start one of their own, and to understand how to voice their passions in a way that ignites and empowers others.
Let your children lead you
My six-year-old son is an animal lover, and since he discovered that chicken was…well, chicken…he has been against eating meat. At first, we thought it was a phase. But the more time went by, the more we realized he is truly morally opposed to it. So, my husband and I began to research how to transition to plant-based diets. I can honestly say I never thought we would be vegetarians, but here we are, six weeks into a plant-based lifestyle – all because my son felt so passionately about it.
I believe that sport has the power to change lives, and it’s a belief I hold true at the office and at home. As a parent, I see every day as an opportunity to lead by example and teach my children to live with passion and purpose – in whatever way that may mean for them. Hopefully the lessons we, as adults, are learning now about diversity and inclusion, social purpose, and corporate responsibility will be second nature to the next generation, and they will be able to live a life of purpose everywhere they go.