Three years ago, before the birth of our son, I wrote out a list of things I wanted to teach him. As we are closing in on the birth of our second child, I wanted to revisit the topic. Looking at that original list now it strikes me as a bit too philosophic. Three years with our first child (although far from being a huge amount of experience) has made me aware that as fundamental as values, mindsets and mental models are, there are practical things even more fundamental that come first. This list, being written on the eve of the birth of our daughter, three years after having our son, is the list of things I feel are most important that I give to my kids (and in some cases they already have it, I just need to be careful not to kill it).
Writing this list was a good exercise as it forced me to hone in on what I really think is important to pass to the next generation. It’s an incomplete list and obviously everyone would have different priorities in doing this exercise themselves. However, I’m sharing it because although you may disagree that some of these things are important, maybe 1 or 2 points will be something you hadn’t thought of and find useful to implement for yourself.
21 Things to Give my Kids
- The feeling that they are loved – through consistent time spent together, giving them positive affirmation, and supporting them through their journeys.
- Consistent contact with nature and animals – and through that instilling a curiosity for how nature works and respect for living beings.
- A strong nutritional base and healthy eating habits – through breastfeeding (my wife, not me), eating natural foods together as a family, and avoiding processed.
- The incentive for physical movement – through exposure to the amazing movement feats that humans do: calisthenics, gymnastics, jiujitsu, dance, sports. Then giving them space to imitate and play with the disciplines.
- A growth mindset – by showing them how through repeated practice they can improve specific skills and that this concept applies to anything they do.
- An antifragile mindset – by showing them how they can overcome their weaknesses/fears with exposure to mild stressors.
- The incentive to read books – through consistent exposure and customizing their reading material to their interests.
- The ability to recognize and deal with their emotional reactions – through talking them through their emotional reactions, asking them what they are feeling, why they feel that way, and helping them develop awareness around the triggers, emotions, and choices they have in reacting to those emotions.
- The inclination to give more than they take from any interaction/environment – through incentivizing this behavior and letting them feel the good emotions that come from giving.
- The inclination to be kind to people as a default state and treat others as they’d like to be treated – through asking them how do you think your actions made him/her feel? How would you feel if they did that to you? How would you like them to treat you?
- The capacity to both say no, and be told no without it being a problem – through enforcing boundaries with them and encouraging them to set their own personal boundaries (even if that’s inconvenient for me sometimes).
- A clear perception of what they control, what they don’t, and how that impacts where they should focus their attention and energy – through helping them practice making this distinction over and over again.
- An understanding of the power of compounding – through showing them examples of how the best skills, relationships, and wealth are built in levels one on top of the other over time.
- Basic financial and microeconomic common sense – through getting them to earn and manage money early.
- A framework they can use to build their own habits – introducing them to James Clear’s cue-craving-response-reward system.
- A framework for deciding what they should do with their time – introducing them to value/time alignment
- A framework for researching answers to questions they have and filtering information – introducing them to reading strategies and credibility-weighting.
- A framework for choosing between options – introducing them to expectation/utility maximization.
- A framework for accomplishing their goals – introducing them to action based/outcome-based goals, using feedback cycles, and orienting the path.
- Basic resources like shelter, clothing, transport and whatever they need to survive until they’re old enough to provide it for themselves.
- An appreciation for the beauty of life, death and all that comes with it – through deep family discussions, spending time in nature, and with those we love.