Today’s Parent interviews Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau

How Justin Trudeau tries to instill a sense of responsibility and confidence in his young kids.

Illustrations: Aidan Kim, age 6
Illustrations: Aidan Kim, age 6

JUSTIN TRUDEAU, leader of the Liberal Party.

AGE: 43

FAMILY STATUS: He has been married to Sophie Grégoire for 10 years. They have three kids: Xavier, 7, Ella-Grace, 6, and Hadrien, 18 months.

GO-TO BEDTIME STORY FOR HIS KIDS: “I introduced them to Where the Wild Things Are probably way too early because it was one of my favourite books.”

WHAT HE’D DO FOR PARENTS AS PRIME MINISTER: “Whether it was my parents or as a parent myself, we always want to give our kids the best opportunities. In the past, hard-working parents led us to be more successful with every generation. Right now, a lot of people are worried that might no longer be true. There’s a lot of worry and anxiety. I use this lens for my decisions. What’s going to benefit them in the long run? A number of people I have spoken to have concerns about having to make impossible choices like “Should I pay for my kids’ education or save for my own retirement?” They are worried that, quite frankly, everything seems to be getting more expensive and they don’t seem to be getting ahead. Confident, optimistic countries are always willing to invest in their future. Creating the public transit, social infrastructure and green infrastructure we need in the coming years is just a smart investment in Canadians and in our own future. That’s exactly what I am going to do.”

"For me, the unconditional element to loving them is really, really important.“ Photo: Adam Scotti
“For me, the unconditional element to loving them is really, really important.“ Photo: Adam Scotti

HIS PARENTING PHILOSOPHY, PART ONE: “The first thing I think of is unconditional love. The love part is easy; the unconditional can be challenging. So the kids know that even when they make a mistake, we aren’t going to love them less. That’s all part of growing and learning, and nothing they can do will make us stop loving them. It’s something that I received from my parents. Whenever I messed up, I got in trouble, but I never felt that my parents loved me any less. For me, the unconditional element to loving them is really, really important.”

HIS PARENTING PHILOSOPHY, PART TWO: “The second part is instilling a sense of responsibility—them accepting consequences and responsibility for their choices and for their actions. Think about what they are doing, the impact it may have on their siblings, on their family and on their friends. It’s about really developing that sense of the impact of one’s choices on the world that they are part of.”

HIS PARENTING PHILOSOPHY, PART THREE: “And I guess the third one would be about independence and having confidence in themselves. Just this morning, it was the first day of school for my two older kids: Xavier is in grade three and Ella-Grace is in grade two. Now we saw them to the bus stop and saw them get on the bus and we said, ‘Now should we drive down to the school and meet you? Be there for when you get off the bus, so you can find your class?’ And they said, ‘No, no, we’re okay. We’re fine. Love you.’ To have secure six- and seven-year-olds—that feels pretty good that they’re confident enough about their abilities and their strengths.”

AN EARLY WAY TO FOSTER RESPONSIBILITY: “They have chores that they often end up doing but sometimes skip, just like any kid—chores like making the beds, bringing their plates back into the kitchen or helping to make breakfast. Xav helped make breakfast yesterday morning and part of that involved clean-up. He made bacon and sausages. He was mostly in charge of frying the sausages. He loves to cook, and that’s something we encourage.”

Justin Trudeau and wife Sophie Grégoire play with Hadrien and Xavier. Photo: Adam Scotti
Justin Trudeau and wife Sophie Grégoire play with Hadrien and Xavier. Photo: Adam Scotti

ON NURTURING CONFIDENCE: “A lot of it has to do with physical confidence. We go for hikes in the woods regularly as a family. And we get them to challenge themselves and climb this tree or that rock, or we challenge them to jump across this gap or push themselves on what has already been a long walk.”

PITCHING IN ON THE HOMEFRONT: “When I’m around, I put them to bed. That’s the big special treat: They get to fall asleep in the master bedroom—Mommy and Daddy’s bed. Because I’m home one or two nights a week these days, especially on the campaign, I’m trying to do as much of it as I possibly can. Facetime has been good because the kids don’t like to necessarily talk on the phone, but when they can see me, that makes a big difference.”

ON WORK/LIFE BALANCE: “One of the things I get most often in politics from people is ‘You know, Justin, thank you for this doing this. I know how difficult it is for you to be away from your family, but I know you are doing this job in spite of the fact that you have a young family.’ And I always have to catch people and take them back and say ‘No, no, no, the only way that this job makes any sense is if I’m doing this because I have a young family.’ Because that thought of what I’m doing to make sure that the world they’re going to grow up in is going to be better, going to be fairer, going to have more opportunities for them and all their neighbours is the frame that makes sense to me.”

THE BEHAVIOUR HE NIPS IN THE BUD: “Whining. I have discussions about this with Sophie. You know, no matter how annoying they get, you can’t give in. That gives them more of a licence to be annoying because they know it’s going to eventually work and they can wear you down quicker than you can resist it. So we try to stick to consequences once they are laid out, and I try to make sure that Sophie and I are being consistent in how we approach things and how we respond to things. They can’t say ‘Well, Mom said’ or ‘Dad said.’ In general, we are pretty good.”

THE MOMENTS HE SAVOURS: “When one of them is falling asleep on me. Whether it’s on a long drive or on a plane or even one of those all-too-rare moments where I can convince them to take a nap on a Saturday afternoon. Xav is seven going on 14 now and he’s such a big boy in so many different ways, but when he falls asleep on me, he’s a two-year-old back in my arms. I miss that as intensely as any parent does. In those moments, I feel like the happiest and luckiest dad in the world.”

Read more:
Today’s Parent interviews Prime Minister Stephen Harper>
Today’s Parent interviews NDP leader Thomas Mulcair>
Today’s Parent interviews Green Party leader Elizabeth May>
Kid talk: What does the prime minister do?>

 

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