Teaching Your Kids to Change the World

Picking up trash ouf of the ocean.

Jenny + I talk a lot about changing the world in our home. It’s just something we feel called to do. To do big things with our lives. Our purpose shifts from time to time, and the ways we go about bringing change in the world changes as well, but we always come back to doing something positive for the greater good. Naturally, we want to raise our kids in an environment of giving, service and believing in causes that are bigger than we are.

Flash back a few months ago. I had just picked Max and Ava up from school. Car rides home for us are a time to chill out a bit. I never try to chat about their day right away. They need some time to decompress after 7 hours in a classroom. I could tell right away something was bothering Max, though. He was visibly upset and wouldn’t talk about it. We pulled up at the house, I gave him a big ‘ol hug and we sat down on our living room floor to chat. Turns out, Max watched a video on youtube in class that day about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, and it hurt him to think about all the animals dying because we can’t dispose of our trash properly.


Flash back a few years more with me. Max has always cared about the environment. Lasting change starts from a love of something you see being harmed. For some reason, the little dude has always picked up trash off the ground, and we’ve taught him at a young age about the benefits of recycling and re-using items. We used to pull him around in a bike trailer, and he’d look for trash. Numerous times I’d be flying down a hill, he’d scream for me to stop, I would then have to slam on my brakes and walk all the way back up the hill (willingly) to pick up said garbage. We filled the back of the bike trailer multiple times with trash, recyclables, beer bottles, etc. I never once complained, because if my son cares about something so much, I’m going to care about it too. Passion works wonders like that. Lasting change comes from a passion that’s infectious.

Jump to the first week of 2nd grade. Jenny + I have lunch with our kids at school once a week. It’s quite awesome that we have the opportunity to do that. So, we take advantage of the extra time with our kiddos. They always have a trash bin and a recycling bin out. For some reason, they weren’t putting the recycling bin out. We asked Max why, he said he didn’t know. Anyway, we tried and tried to get him to ask the lunch ladies if they’d put it out, he just wouldn’t. He seemed afraid to speak up. So, Jenny asked, they brought it out, and kept bringing it out the rest of the year. Lasting change comes from using your voice to speak up.

Side note: I have no clue why they can’t teach the kids about recycling at school. They give them the option, but I’d say about 65% of the kids just dump all their stuff in the trash because it’s easier. Our kids will care if we care. We give our kids the tools, and they’ll use them. Max and Ava are very adamant about recycling because we’ve given them the tools and explained why it’s important. It kind of bums me out. End side note.

I remember chatting with Max about how even though he’s little he can make big changes. The kid just has charisma, he’s likable, he’s smart, and he’s shown many signs that make a great leader. I explained to him that change starts with one person inviting others to join in. That’s how movements are created. If he wants to make lasting changes in the environment, he needs to lead by example and teach others about why he does what he does. He seems reluctant to stand out, though, and I understand why. Being a leader is HARD. You have to put your whole self out there, and you might get rejected, you might fail, but being a leader is important. No lasting change has come from people who won’t speak up, it just doesn’t happen.

We recently spent a few weeks in California, and we went to the beach at least 9 times. Every single time we hit the sand, we picked up trash. Max + I chatted about the Garbage Patch and that trash on the beach ends up in the ocean, and ultimately the garbage patch. So, we did a small part. We picked up all the junk we found. I know it’s not much, but teaching Max that every little bit helps is a start. Lasting change comes from little starts.

So, this video on the Great Pacific Garden Patch, Max shared it with me and the girls. We all had tears in our eyes after watching it. Max was very adamant about figuring out a way to stop all the garbage piling up in the ocean like that. His brilliant mind was creating all these wonderful inventions to destroy the trash. All required help from others (and quite a bit of technology that just isn’t around yet, but that’s besides the point). Lasting change starts with a vision of a place that doesn’t exist yet.

There’s patterns emerging here. Max cares about the environment, the animals, and people not doing the simple things we can to make this world a suitable living place for all living things. I know he’ll figure out how to use his voice, and do great things for this world. I know it, because he’s learning the tools it takes to make a lasting change. He’s learning when one sees something troubling you have to speak up. He’s learning about taking risks for causes you believe in. He’s learning that small actions over a long period of time lead to big things. Most importantly, he’s learning that LOVE does really amazing things.

What are some ways you’ve taught your kids to make big changes in the world? We’d love to hear your thoughts!

Josh Solar (624 Posts)

I am a: Joy Seeker. Big Dreamdoer. Family Adventurer. Connoisseur of fine music. Practitioner of Gratitude. Painter of Watercolors.


8 comments
jimstadick
jimstadick

I'll get back to you on what my kid(s) has done. It's not here yet. But I just wanted to say how awesome this is.  You're kids are amazing.  You and Jenny are amazing.  I hope I am as good of a parent as you guys.  Keep being great.  Hope you guys are having a fantastic summer! Safe travels!

happyfammvmt
happyfammvmt moderator

@jimstadick I have no doubt in my mind you will be an awesome dad. You and Ravyn are incredible people. I'm so stoked to watch you grow as a husband, father and all around amazing human being.

JanaMarler
JanaMarler

Well shoot. I'm in love with little ole max and we need more young boys like this in the world so that we can in turn have influential and respectable MEN in this world! I have loved watching your family grow and even better yet, watching their hearts unfold as magnificently as both of yours. You are two truly fantastic people you know that!? Love your stories Solars !!

happyfammvmt
happyfammvmt moderator

@JanaMarler Thanks, Jana, that means a lot coming from you. I'm excited to watch YOU grow, and Phillip, he's just awesome, too, and lucky to have you!

pamelajorrick
pamelajorrick

I loved that you'd stop the bike and walk back up hill to get the trash your son spotted. That's a really affirming message in the importance of him, his voice and his beliefs and causes. 

My kids and I have done Coastal Cleanup projects with groups and as a family, and we've volunteered with their youth group making sandwiches for the homeless, collecting canned food, singing to elderly shut ins, and helping rebuild a community after a flood. I love seeing young people be able to do concrete things to make the world a better place and watching how it empowers them.

Another fun thing we've started is trying to cut paper towel waste by putting these stickers up in public restrooms: (It's best to get permission as one kid informed me that it's probably illegal if you don't :-) http://thesecomefromtrees.blogspot.com/

Keep up the good work with your kids!


happyfammvmt
happyfammvmt moderator

@pamelajorrick Thanks for sharing! I know we'd be involved in lots of Coastal Cleanup projects if we didn't live in Kansas City. The ocean is just a full of love for our kids. I'm going to order some of those stickers as well!

vma0703
vma0703

My daughter is part of the environmental club at school (she's 10).  They've learned bout recycling, composting, recycled bottles to give to dolphin programs etc.  They do presentations to the rest of the school about doing good for the environment.  It's great & she loves it.

happyfammvmt
happyfammvmt moderator

@vma0703 That's amazing! Our school doesn't have anything like that. We've talked to Max about potentially starting a recycling club, but he's not interested at the moment. I'm hoping when he gets a little older he'll understand the influence he can have on others. Thanks for sharing, I'll make sure to pass the message on :)

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