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Bill and Melinda Gates share 2 critical lessons they're teaching their kids

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.

In addition to running the world's largest private charity foundation, Bill and Melinda Gates are full-time parents. They have three kids: Jennifer, 22, Rory, 19, and Phoebe, 16.

When it comes to parenting, the billionaire philanthropists take a straightforward approach: Lead by example.

"You give a lot to kids by example," Bill said during a conversation with Melinda and hundreds of high school students in New York City last week. "My kids see that I read a lot, and they can give me a hard time about that, but I think it's a positive lesson for them in terms of getting really deep into a subject."

Besides setting a good example, there are two critical lessons the couple are passing on to their kids.

Marry the right person

"One of the lessons we try to talk to our kids about, or I say to them quite often, is: If you choose to have a partner in life, whoever you choose is probably the most important decision you make," Melinda said during the conversation in NYC, adding that it's "even more important than what career you have, where you go to college, where you go to high school."

That said, if you don't make the right choice initially, don't panic. "You can have a do-over. People do have a do-over with partners in life, but it's easier to have a do-over in your job and to change careers a lot than it is to change partners," she said. "So I say, try to pick very carefully and wisely."

"If you choose to have a partner in life, whoever you choose is probably the most important decision you make." -Melinda Gates

Gender shouldn't limit your options

"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 wrote in Time Magazine in 2017.

"My parents taught me that my sister and I could do anything our brothers could," she recalled. It was a valuable lesson, and one that she's passing on to her kids, "but gender equality wasn't exactly the kind of thing we talked about around the dinner table," she noted. "They were more focused on giving us the confidence to fly than discussing the barriers that might hold us back."

That's something she and her husband are doing differently when it comes to raising their three kids: "[We] 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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