What should you teach your children?

Six high-profile dads reveal the life lessons they want to pass on.

Being a parent is overwhelming – between trying to keep a miniature human safe and getting them from A to B on time, it can be hard to think about what it really means to be a role model.

But if we did have the time, there's a lot we could pass on about life and love that might better prepare the next generation for the road ahead.

Dr Lyn O'Grady, a psychologist and national project manager for KidsMatter at the Australian Psychological Society, says parents will always be one of the ultimate influencers on kids' lives, whether we realise it or not.

“Parents help children find out their place in the world and develop a strong sense of self,” she says.

The best thing we can teach our children is respect – for themselves and the other. “A lot of this is done by setting a good example, expressing how we're feeling and being tolerant of different viewpoints,” she explains. “Confidence is another key thing that we should pass down.”

But in addition to life's regular hurdles, Generation Z - children born after 2000 – also faces some unique challenges, says Mark McCrindle, a social researcher and trend analyst.

“They've been brought up with more change than any other generation,” he says. “Responding to that is going to be tough for Gen Z.”

For that reason, it will be critical for them to learn resilience. “More than ever they'll need to bounce back. They're experiencing cyber bullying, they've faced global terrorism and they're up against severe health issues such as obesity and allergies.”

In preparation for that change, we asked six high-profile men to share what they want to pass onto their children.


Jude Bolton, Sydney Swans AFL player and Healthy Bones Australia ambassador:

“I want to teach my 17-month-old daughter Siarra to chase her dreams whole-heartedly. She may face setbacks along the way, but hopefully she can feel a sense of fulfillment by being the person SHE wants.

I hope she helps others less fortunate in any way she can, that she understands how lucky she is and that there are always others who are doing it tough.

I want her to live a healthy life. As a sportsman and ambassador for Healthy Bones Australia, I'll teach her why getting enough calcium, exercise and a little sunshine is important.

Lastly, I'll tell her to find a partner she respects who loves her, appreciates her and makes her laugh – someone to join her on this wonderful journey.”

Andrew Wallace-Smith, managing director of D'URBAN Clothing:

“I'd teach my children to respect others, be honest, contribute to society, have a good work ethic and look others in the eye when you greet them – good manners do not go unnoticed.

Also, wear the best suit you can afford and make sure your shoes are polished.”

Michael Fullilove, executive director of the Lowy Institute for International Policy and author of Rendezvous with Destiny: How Franklin D. Roosevelt and Five Extraordinary Men Took America into the War and into the World (Penguin)

“I want to teach the next generation that life is often about 'holding the position'.

These are a few of the Special Orders issued by Australian fighting clergyman Frank Bethune to his men when they were charged with defending an isolated and exposed position against superior enemy forces:

1. This position will be held, and the section will remain here until relieved.

2. The enemy cannot be allowed to interfere with this.

3. If the section cannot remain here alive, it will remain here dead, but in any case it will remain here.

They held the position for 18 days and, after the fall of Dunkirk in 1940, the orders were used in posters around England under the caption “The spirit which won the last war”. We all need to remember that attitude sometimes.

I'd also like to pass on something my mum said – at the end of the day; we're just a bag of bones.”

Tim Jarvis, environmental advisor, author and leader of the Shackleton Epic expedition:

“I want to teach my two children to believe they can do anything they set their mind to do, and not let anyone tell them otherwise.

I hope they learn sustainability and that it's up to them to make a difference - the future relies on you, don't expect others to do it.

Finally, life is an adventure. Go and find out what makes you feel fulfilled and enjoy the journey.”

Mark Britt, CEO of Mi9, a joint venture between Microsoft and Nine Entertainment Co:

“If there's one thing I can teach my children it's that it's always best to be honest and treat others as they'd like to be treated.

I'm a fan of feedback, so I think if they can take both the good and the bad and work out what it means for them, they'll grow up to be the best people they can be."

Jesse Fink author of Laid Bare (Hachette). His new book, The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC (Random House), is out in November:

“My daughter was three when I separated from her mother. It wasn't easy but I think we've both benefited from the change. She's street smart, cluey and empathetic: a wonderful kid.

I want to pass on to her an old lesson from my father: endure with grace what you can't change. I didn't listen at first – I thought I knew better – but eventually I got the message. Shit happens. It's how you deal with it that matters.

Also, I want her to take risks in life. Don't be afraid to fail. Don't be afraid to fall in love or get your heart broken. You only have one life. It's that old line of Bon Scott's from Rock 'N' Roll Damnation: 'Take a chance while you still got the choice'. For me, that just says it all."