This week, the kids, Steven and I started creating our family manifesto, firstly by asking the kids what they think their life will be like when they’re grown up.
As I’ve said here before, I really want to find out how to support the kids to be happy and successful (in whatever they choose) as they grow up and to develop the traits, attitudes, outlook etc that will put them in the best position when it comes to supporting themselves in the future. I had started writing an ebook on this for my 30 day challenge but got a bit bored with just writing. I wanted to do something a bit more hands-on and so hope that through creating a manifesto instead of a book, I’ll come up with a list that we can put on our wall as a reminder for the kids and ourselves.
After I managed to convince Steven that it wasn’t some weird new age, indoctrination device, I came up with a way to involve the kids so that they could understand what we were trying to do and why.
So I got together some A3 sheets of paper, pens, crayons and glue. Like most kids, ours couldn’t wait to do some drawing and sticking and generally making a mess. Then Steven and I armed ourselves with a pen and wrote down things they said so they could cut them out and stick them on their posters too. All I can say was that it was the most fun I’ve had in ages! I’d really encourage you to have a go too.
I described what we were going to do to the kids as: “We’re going to help you to draw a poster about what you want to do and who you want to be when you’re grown up.”
Here they are, hard at work/play:
To get them going and to keep some kind of structure to the whole thing, I had come up with some questions beforehand. The questions I asked (and some of their answers) were:
What do you think you’ll be doing when you’re grown up?
A job at the airport (Mischa has been training to search through people’s handbags since she was 6 months old); babysitting; a look after-er; going to university, being creative; baking cakes for my family :); helping people; hiding dragons (see Jude’s finished poster below).
What kind of person will you be (I had some prompts ready – brave, helpful, nasty, funny, shy, creative, nosy etc)
Brave, helpful, knowledgeable, observant (!), shy when people look at me; cheeky.
What is it important to do to look after yourself?
Don’t get lost. Being careful when I do things. I think I’ll eat meat and be a vegetarian sometimes too.
What do you do when you get stuck on a problem?
Work out my problems; try different ways to solve it; you can do things that you think you can’t; ask for help; do things!
Are your friends like you or are they different?
Some will be the same but some will be different to me.
What do you look like?
Encouragingly, neither of the kids were too bothered with this question other than Mischa wanting to have blue hair.
What is your life like? (again, I used prompts like exciting, happy, quiet, busy…)
Fun, exciting, lots of travel (to Africa & Cardiff); I’ll be very happy; it will be fun to be grown up; I want to stay at home and go to the jungle.
Although he was yawning his head off at the beginning, Steven got into the swing of things pretty quickly especially when the kids started describing what they were thinking. He even came up with a couple of cracking questions himself:
What makes you a grown up?
Doing things by yourself; looking after my friends.
How old will you be when you’re grown up?
When I’m 16; when I’m 68.
And here are the finished posters!
To be honest, Jude (at 4) was a bit wee to get into it properly (he got easily distracted and bored), but he still came out with some really interesting answers. Mischa, (at 6) however, had a greater capacity to really think about the questions and take the time to make the poster as she wanted it.
After we were done and the glue was drying, I thought about how it had gone. The first thing that struck me was how the kids had described their future selves. There was a bit of parroting of what they think they ‘should’ say but then I realised that they were using the words we often use to describe them e.g. helpful, cheeky. These words have already become a part of how they see themselves – a scary thought!
Since reading Carol Dwek’s work on the fixed versus growth mindsets, I’ve been trying to watch how I praise or tell off the kids i.e. ‘you worked really hard on that and tried lots of different ways to fix that problem’, rather than ‘you’re so clever!’ I won’t pretend that this is easy to do all the time but this exercise showed me again how important is it to reinforce the strategies and effort the kids put in rather than short-handing praise with quick words like saying they’re ‘clever’ or ‘funny’ (look up Dwek’s website to see why).
Also a really sweet development happened later that night. Our kids rarely copy what we do in any obvious way (other than trying on my shoes and playing mummies and daddies). But that night, Jude watched his dad really closely and started imitating how Steven swirled his glass at dinner and then refused to wear a top in bed because daddy doesn’t. It was as if through this exercise, he recognised Steven as his role model for being a grown up – no pressure Steven…
So overall, it was a really valuable and enjoyable 20 mins for all of us. The next step is to add Steven and my thoughts into it too – I’ll keep you posted as to how that goes. When it comes to thinking about the future though, I think Jude summed it up well when it got fed up with my incessant questioning, and said “I don’t know what my life will be like but that’s ok!”
If you have a go yourself or know of any other inspirational manifestos, leave me a comment below 🙂