What are you going to leave your children?

When it comes to your children’s legacy, don’t think only in terms of money.

As parents, we get caught up in the cut and thrust of everyday life and then forget about what our real objectives are as parents. Sometimes, we lower our sights so that our main goal is just getting through the next day. But every now and then, it’s good to step back from our work as parents to ask ourselves, “When my parenting days are over, what would I have liked to have given my children?”

Some people think that what they’ve got to leave their children is money. There’s nothing wrong with providing an inheritance for your children, but is that really only what you should be working to achieve?

What about a bunch of other things, like giving them certain skills and values that would stand them in good stead long after you’ve moved on? For instance, wouldn’t you like to give your children the ability to make good decisions? That would take them a long way through life and enhance their quality of life and relationships. There’s nothing worse than a person who simply doesn’t know how to make decisions and makes bad ones – gets into the wrong career, marries the wrong partner, cultivates the wrong friends …

If you decide that you might need to put that on your list to teach your children, I suggest you start right away, no matter how small they are. Even if your child is two or three-years-old, you can start giving them an opportunity to make decisions. Sure, there are many things they simply have no choice about, but when it comes to things like, say, giving them an ice cream, ask them, “Do you want a white one or a pink one?”

It might sound simple, but that’s where they start learning how to make decisions. Of course, an important part of the lesson is that, if they decide after they’ve been given the white ice cream that they now want a pink one, don’t buckle. That’s when you teach them about the consequences of their decisions and having to live with the consequences. If you continually bail them out of their bad decisions – you buy them a pink ice cream in response to their new demands – you’re headed for beeg trouble. They will never feel the need to have to think carefully about decisions because they don’t have to deal with the consequences of their decisions.

Another thing you might want to leave your children is a set of solid values. One of the ways you teach children your values is by living those values out in front of them. If, therefore, you want your children to be honest, live a life of honesty in front of them. If you want them to be compassionate, show compassion yourself. Children are excellent judges of authenticity, so don’t think you’re going to be able to fool them by adopting a “Do as I say” approach instead of a “Do as I do” approach. If you’re not prepared to live it, don’t even think of preaching it. 

Moral leadership is sadly lacking in the world, let alone in the home. The truth of moral leadership is that when you lead by example, you have the moral high ground to demand the same behaviour of others, whether children or people who report to you at work.

Why do we have so much unaccountability in the workplace and society? Because people in leadership positions don’t want to be held accountable themselves so they never dare to hold others accountable lest they get challenged and exposed.

If you want your children to live in a certain way, therefore, make sure you live it first. Hold yourself accountable for your own words and actions and you can hold your children accountable for theirs. Try to evade accountability yourself and watch how good your children become at it too!

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