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The parental privilege of leaving a legacy

By Carol Muleta

If they embrace the challenge, everyone can make a powerful impact in whatever roles they play in the world. As a parent, you have the extraordinary privilege and responsibility of leaving a legacy.

Beyond any money or property you leave behind, you bequeath to your children invaluable life lessons as they witness how you relate to them, manage your daily obligations and interact with others. Strategic advisor Peter Strople said, “Legacy is not leaving something for people. It’s leaving something in people.” When you emphasize pouring good material into your children versus surrounding them with lavish material goods, you set them up to create a life of real meaning.

Here are some essential character traits your children can digest through your actions and example:


Illuminate your child’s path by regarding yourself and others with dignity in moments of harmony or discord, abundance or scarcity, joy or sorrow and success or defeat.


Practice routines and rituals for taking care of individual needs while respecting the needs of others. In addition, give your children responsibility for some household tasks that serve the family.


Model and teach problem-solving skills that prepare your children to creatively confront life’s unexpected challenges. When appropriate, solicit your child’s ideas for tackling family dilemmas. Their unfiltered perspective can yield fresh, commonsense solutions you may not normally consider.


When facing setbacks, acknowledge disappointment, assess damages, regain traction (with help, if necessary), recast your approach and restart the journey. Follow this formula in your own life for your children to see.

Resist the urge to rescue your children at the first sign of frustration or disappointment; let them experience low- stakes failures, and guide them through these steps so they gain experience recovering from crisis.


Everyone in the family deserves time to relax and experience joy even when there’s no higher meaning attached. At other times, we should demonstrate what operating in purpose looks like. Share some of your goals and the daily practices that help you reach them. Show your children how they can use their skills and talents to serve their own needs and those of others.

Ultimately, some lessons are taught, and others are caught. Be intentional about creating your own formula for the legacy you want to leave for your children and future generations.

Carol Muleta is a certified parent educator and consultant with The Parenting 411. Reach her at (703) 201-5426 or

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