Raising World Changers
Raising World Changers
Well, how do you explore raising world changers in a few hundred words?
The truth is I’m not sure that I even know how. But in all my time watching, working with, and living with families, there seem to be a few things in common about those young people who have compassion, a desire to make a difference, and know that the universe does not revolve around them.
I’m sure there are many many factors involved. For now, I will just mention three.
Firstly, if this child is going to want to change the world he or she needs to have parents and role-models who are doing their bit to make a difference. If you want to raise world changers, be a world changer. Let your kids see you getting your hands dirty.
Take them with you to volunteer at the nearest soup kitchen. Get your family involved at a Christmas meal for the homeless. Invite a single mum and her kids over for dinner. Offer to mow that old lady’s lawn down the road. Make a casserole for a family doing it tough.
I know a mum who lives in the nice part of town, and whose children lack nothing. But she brings her young daughter out to the disadvantaged areas regularly. They visit organisations that are working with needy people. This little girl brought all her savings and donated the cash to the place they visited. She and her mum have been through their clothes and toys and given many away to people who need them more. I am inspired by this mum, and I suspect she is raising a world changer.
When they are little you are their most important role model. But as they reach adolescence they will need others… Work to build those connections from an early age.
Mix with other families, whose kids are a bit older and who also have similar values.
Your teenagers need older young people who are committed to making a difference.
My second point is to let them have dreams. Take them seriously. Don’t call anything “ridiculous”, “stupid” or “unrealistic” . There are many people through history who have been scoffed at for their dreams that ended up changing the world. Instead, talk with them about this dream, get excited, be positive, find a way for them to take a small, first step toward that dream.
When my daughter was young, she said, “When I grow up I’m not going to have sex. I’m just going to adopt a baby from China.” Well, now she is 24, and I’m not sure that she feels exactly that way anymore. But the dream to care for orphans has never faded. We have got excited about it too. We have reminded her about the dream when she was going through a rough patch. Now she and her fiancee talk, dream and plan together about the orphanage they will open one day.
And thirdly, don’t give them too much. At least not too much stuff. Not too much pocket money, not too grandiose presents, not too much of what they want, or may think they need. Occasionally let them experience sadness at missing out on something that “everyone else has”. Don’t rescue them. Give them the opportunity to save, to wait, to look forward to things, to put off self-gratification. And to do without.
Let them experience limits. Limits on screen/technology time. limits on junk food and treats. Limits on new toys. In fact limit the number of toys. There is great benefit in simplifying our children’s lives. They will learn to be more imaginative and creative in their play, and will also discover that it’s not “stuff” that makes us happy. (Many adults still haven’t grasped that one.)
Keep the big picture in mind. Encourage them to be grateful for what they do have. And how fortunate they are.
Build values of gratitude and generosity into your family culture. When we keep repeating and encouraging those things, they becomes what is normal. “In our family we….” “In our family we welcome people into our home”. Or “In our family we help people who don’t have as much as we have.”
So, there are my three points:
1/ If you want your children to be world changers, then change the world with them. Take them with you into some dark places, and bring a bit of light and hope together. Hang around people who do that… it will come to seem normal.
2/ Give them space to dream. Listen to what is in their heart. Get excited and get on board. Keep that dream alive for them when life gets tough.
3/ Encourage generosity, not selfishness. Value those values, keep repeating how important they are. Notice and talk about those qualities in others. Be positive and proud when you see it happening in your family, and your children will take those values on for themselves.
And the important thing is to do all this with lots of laughter, and lots of time together.
Let’s give our children the message that the people who are having the most fun are those who are focussed on others, on serving and giving, not worrying about their own happiness.
So, next weekend, instead of a family outing to the local shopping centre, how about you put your heads together, do a bit of brainstorming and googling, and see what else you can come up with?