Leadership

Michelle Obama, Warren Buffett and Bill Gates all use this parenting lesson to empower their kids

From the White House to the stock exchanges and the creation of today's ubiquitous technology, Michelle Obama, Warren Buffett and Bill Gates have undoubtedly changed the world through their leadership.

While these three have inspired business leaders and innovators of all kinds over the years, it is their children who will carry on their legacy.

Interestingly, they have all empowered their own kids through one similar parenting lesson they learned while growing up: Be yourself and value who you are.

Here is how Obama, Buffett and Gates have shared this value with their own children over the years.

Michelle Obama

Malia Obama, Sasha Obama, mother-in-law Marian Robinson, first lady Michelle Obama and President Barack Obama attend the national Christmas tree lighting ceremony on the Ellipse south of the White House December 3, 2015 in Washington, DC.
Olivier Douliery | Getty Images
Malia Obama, Sasha Obama, mother-in-law Marian Robinson, first lady Michelle Obama and President Barack Obama attend the national Christmas tree lighting ceremony on the Ellipse south of the White House December 3, 2015 in Washington, DC.

Since she was 3 years old, the former First Lady says she was allowed to speak her mind at home because her parents understood that teaching children at a young age that their voice was valuable and important, she said at the Obama Foundation Summit earlier this month.

"I think that's something that a lot of people take for granted. They think that having a voice just happens," Obama said. "In order to know how to use [your voice] and how to use it carefully and how to debate, you've got to find it."

She noted that she didn't live in a home where kids were taught to be seen and not heard. Instead, her parents taught her to share her opinion and asked her and her brother for input about things that involved the family and their life.

"We knew about money and paying bills, we knew about issues of the family. It had to be respectful, but the notion that a 5-year-old wouldn't have feelings about how their life went was not something that my parents believed in," Obama said.

"My mother always said she was raising adults, she wasn't raising children," she added. "So she spoke to us as people, because that's what you needed to practice."

As a result, Obama and her husband former president Barack Obama have long taught their two daughters Sasha and Malia that they have a responsibility to shape the world around them.

"Part of what we try to communicate is that being responsible is an enormous privilege," Barack Obama said earlier this year, adding that owning that responsibility is what marks them or anyone a "fully grown human."

Obama also said that knowing her parents always valued her decisions boosted her confidence.

"I always knew that I had a defender, I had an advocate which made me ready to use my voice," she said.

Warren Buffett

Peter Buffett, Warren Buffett, and Susie Buffett attend 'Becoming Warren Buffett' World Premiere at The Museum of Modern Art on January 19, 2017 in New York City. (
Jamie McCarthy | Getty Images
Peter Buffett, Warren Buffett, and Susie Buffett attend 'Becoming Warren Buffett' World Premiere at The Museum of Modern Art on January 19, 2017 in New York City. (

Warren Buffett, who has three children, shared with Forbes in 2013 how important it is to encourage children to do what they want to do.

"We never gave any instructions on specifics, but I think they did pick up the values that were meaningful to their mother and to myself," Buffett said.

The business magnate noted that one of the things he is most grateful to his father for was his unrelenting support for whatever he wanted to do.

"He was not trying to live his life through me. I tried to pass that on to my children," Buffett said and he did.

Peter Buffett, his son, echoed this mindset in a Reuters interview for his book "Life is What You Make it: Finding Your Own Path to Fulfillment."

"I am my own person and I know what I have accomplished in my life," Buffett's son told Reuters.

"Economic prosperity may come and go," Peter noted in his book. "But values are the steady currency that earn us the all-important rewards."

Many people were shocked when Buffett disclosed to Fortune Magazine in 1986 that he planned to leave much of his wealth to the Buffett Foundation instead of to his children. But that's when he expressed the faith he had in his children and how he raised them.

''My kids are going to carve out their own place in this world, and they know I'm for them whatever they want to do," he said.

At the time of the interview, Buffett agreed with a psychoanalyst that worked with the children of wealthy families when he said, "Pay attention to your kids, spend some time with your kids, love your kids."

Buffett's response: ''Love is the greatest advantage a parent can give.''

Bill Gates

Phoebe Adele Gates, Bill Gates, and Melinda Gates attend the Goalkeepers 2017, at Jazz at Lincoln Center on September 20, 2017 in New York City.
Jamie McCarthy | Getty Images
Phoebe Adele Gates, Bill Gates, and Melinda Gates attend the Goalkeepers 2017, at Jazz at Lincoln Center on September 20, 2017 in New York City.

Though Bill Gates, father of three, has found much success as a tech mogul turned philanthropist, it was the encouragement from his parents to try different opportunities as a kid — like trying different sports such as swimming, football and soccer — that ultimately led him to his passion for computers and software.

"At the time I thought it was kind of pointless, but it ended up really exposing me to leadership opportunities and showing me that I wasn't good at a lot of things, instead of sticking to things that I was comfortable with," Gates told Fortune in 2009. "It was fantastic, and now some of those activities I cherish."

When it came time to take on more professional conversations as a young entrepreneur, Gates said he felt "equipped" while "dealing with adults" because his parents had shared with him how they thought about things.

"I think family traditions that get you to come together and talk about what you're up to — going on trips together, always sitting at dinner and sharing thoughts — really made a huge difference," Gates said.

Earlier this year, Melinda Gates told Time Magazine that when raising a feminist son, she often thinks back to how her own parents taught her that she could do anything her brothers could.

"Bill and I had always known that, like our own parents, we would raise our children to believe they could do anything without their gender limiting their options," Melinda said. "We also decided over time that, for the sake of our son as well as our daughters, we were going to be a family that readily talks about gender equality at the dinner table."

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