When thinking about a legacy, monetary provisions are often the first to come to mind. Parents want to make sure their children are well taken care of through legacy trusts and are intentional to plan out wills and beneficiaries—who gets what and when. The goal is to make sure that children are cared for and receive designated endowments and inheritance from the parents.
What about the non-material legacy, though? What do parents pass down to their children that cannot be quantified?
Whether it be daily priorities and schedules, family traditions, personality characteristics, or repeated habits, children have a strong tendency toward imitating the actions and behaviors of their parents. This is the legacy that we as parents are living out daily right in front of our children.
The motto of Michigan Virtual Charter Academy challenges parents and educators to think about this legacy. “Login, Learn, Lead . . . Leave a Legacy.” Whether we think about it or not, part of what children are learning from both parents and educators is the legacy of what we teach, both in words and in actions.
Here are few specific ways parents can be intentional about the legacy they are leaving for their kids.
With every family being unique, there is much for kids to learn about their genealogy, heritage, and cultural traditions. It is important that children understand the influences that help to create the characteristics and dynamics of their family. Take the time to look at your family tree, talk about the different countries of origin that compose your family’s ancestry, and pass along any treasured family customs.
Nothing is going to make quite as much of an impression as the memories your children will treasure throughout their lives. The smell of breakfast on Saturday morning, the feeling of the goodnight hug, the sound of the car coming up the driveway, the taste of mom’s famous pumpkin pie, the jokes told around the dinner table—it is often the smallest moments that make the biggest memories.
It is inevitable that as people spend time together, they make impressions on each other. The more time you invest in your children, the more chances you have to leave an imprint on their development. As you coach their teams, visit them at lunch, play games as a family, or take weekend trips to visit parks or museums, you are investing in quality time spent together and opening endless opportunities to show them how much you love and care for them. This time together puts actions to your words.
Beliefs and Values
As your children grow up, they will be exposed to many opposing viewpoints. School, friends, professors—they will all at times challenge your child’s beliefs and values. In preparation for these times, discussions are important regarding religious beliefs, social issues, and moral guidelines. What children learn in the home regarding such matters will form a basis for how they evaluate and decide their own individual beliefs once they are older.
Cute pictures circulate of little ones dressing up or doing “grown-up” activities just like their parents, and even though they are created for the adorable factor, much truth is revealed in these images. Little eyes are always watching what you do. You can tell them what to do all day long, emphasizing right and wrong, but it is actually what you do by your actions that most influences their behaviors. Your patterns of conduct, your habits, your words, your attitudes—these are all influential and formative in creating the ideas and behavior your children may imitate for a lifetime.
Carl Williams, Sr. is a wonderful example of a parent’s legacy of teaching his child to respect academics. As seen in this image of Michigan Virtual Charter Academy student Carl Williams, Jr., his father has set an example for him of how to dress to demonstrate the importance of being prepared for testing. This is a small and simple way that a parent can help a student realize the significance of school, appreciating and respecting the role it is playing in their life.
Can you name a specific habit, tradition, or behavior that your child has learned from you? Comment below with what you value most about the legacy you are leaving for your kids.