How to create your own manifesto for life: Step 1. Involve the kids

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:

Starting our family manifesto

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!

Mischa's manifesto for growing up Jude's manifesto for growing up

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 🙂




8 thoughts on “How to create your own manifesto for life: Step 1. Involve the kids

  1. Love this idea, Keira! My son is 4 so maybe a bit young too but we could still try it next week when his dad is off work for the week. We make so many assumptions, don’t we? (I think if you had an ebook of instructions/ideas/words to cut out that would go down a treat :).

    • Thanks Joanne! Go for it! Even if your son is a bit young, I bet he’ll come out with some really interesting (and entertaining) answers. It was just nice for us all to sit down and do something together. If you decide to do it, let me know how you get on 🙂 I think I might get to work on your idea for an ebook too – thanks for the tip.

  2. Hey Keira!
    As ever I fear I am a bit useless in the IT world so I hope I am putting this in the right place!

    I came across this piece called Desiderata (desired things) many years ago. I am sure it has been the subject or content of many ‘Hallmark’ type terribly sugary renditions in latter years but it was actually written way back in 1927.
    I myself found it circa 1990 in a Birthdays Card shop (do they still exist?!) printed on a sickening hue of pastel coloured backdrop in a small frame. I did away with that version long ago, but the meaning and direction behind the words live on with me. It crosses over with your recent post on inspriration where you quote the Luhrmaan legend! When I looked that up I was also so chuffed to discover that it originally came from a sassy woman!

    So, for me, I guess I feel a lot of common space between insprirational quotes and a manifesto for life. I hope you don’t mind the cross-fertilisation but I’m trying to let my mind go ‘free range’ for a bit, as inspired by you. Just trying to connect different bits of life in new and different ways!

    My favourite line in the Sunscreen Song is the one about the race being long and in the end, about it only being with yourself. And in the below, there is so much about a person’s measure of oneself.

    So here is ‘Desiderata’:

    “Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.
    As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons.
    Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.
    Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.
    If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
    Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
    Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
    Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism.

    Be yourself.

    Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.

    Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

    Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.

    You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

    With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.”

    Max Ehrmann (1872–1945)

    • Wow, Anne-Marie! That is beautiful and powerful stuff. I especially like the lines “Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself” and “With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world”. I think I’ve found my new favourite thing to collect 🙂 Thanks so much for sharing. Also, you have a lovely writing style. You should think of getting yourself a blog 🙂
      K x

      P.S. Obviously you know more of IT than you think and I had totally forgotten the Birthdays Card shop. It felt like I spent most of my teenage years in there.

  3. This is wonderful Keira, what a lovely thing to do with your children. Mine are 16 and 19 now and I recently found some pictures they drew about 8 years ago showing what their life was like then, and how they’d like it to be. It was a thought provoking thing to do at the time but even more interesting now to look back at. It’ll be interesting to see how your children’s vision of their future selves grows over the years.

    • Thanks Alison. What a fantastic thing to be able to look back and compare what your kids hoped for the future and their reality. Hopefully, it’s even better than they envisioned! I’ve taken some photos of the kids’ posters as I fear they won’t last very long. They’re really proud of them, wanting to show them off to visitors, so I can’t blame them if they end up getting ripped or drawn on. They are theirs after all 🙂 (even though the voice in my head is screaming at me to lock them away safe!) Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  4. Another quote. I think I can really live this one/ have lived it every day!:

    “Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”
    Samuel Beckett

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